Thursday, December 14, 2017
Tampa Bay Rays

Plate approach, versatility helping Rays' Nick Franklin

ST. PETERSBURG — The work he put in during the offseason while working with former big-leaguer Alex Ochoa in Miami Gardens has helped INF Nick Franklin at the plate. But it's his newfound ability to play the outfield that will keep him around when the Rays activate Steven Souza Jr. today.

"And he switch-hits, so he becomes a very versatile player," manager Kevin Cash said.

Souza Jr. (left hip strain) will be activated for today's game against the Tigers. Souza walked and scored a run Friday during seven innings in Bradenton for Class A Charlotte.

UTL Taylor Motter was optioned to Durham after Friday's game to make room on the 25-man roster.

With CF Desmond Jennings out with a tight left hamstring, Franklin found himself in leftfield for the second time on this homestand.

"It's good," Franklin said Friday when asked about playing the outfield.

He made his first career start there Wednesday against the Red Sox.

"I think we're all surprised a little bit and very optimistic about how he looks in the outfield. Just some natural comfort out there," Cash said. "That's not to say he's going to be perfect every night. If you can play outfield in this building you can play outfield anywhere."

Franklin has also contributed in a big way at the plate since rejoining the team June 21. He has nine RBIs on this homestand (he was 0-for-3 Friday) after having seven last season in 44 games with the Rays. He said he feels more comfortable at the plate from both sides after going back to the left-handed approach he last used in 2013.

Franklin also said he no longer feels the pressure to have the big hit every time he plays that he felt last year while playing sporadically. The result: He has had some big hits this week.

"He is having good at-bats and he's having big hits for us," Cash said. "That always helps."

INJURY UPDATE: RHPs Alex Cobb (Tommy John surgery), Chase Whitley (Tommy John) and Alex Colome (right biceps tendinitis) are scheduled to throw bullpen sessions Sunday. Colome said he thinks he can return by mid-week. DH Steve Pearce (hamstring) hit off a tee Friday. CF Kevin Kiermaier (left hand fracture) is tentatively scheduled to hit off a tee today.

JENNINGS UPDATE: Jennings is listed as day to day after leaving Thursday's game with an injured hamstring. Cash said Friday it was too early to speculate when Jennings might return. "That's a tough thing to do with hamstrings, because you never have a really good sense right afterwards," Cash said.

RAMIREZ REVISITED: With three losses in his past four appearances, RHP Erasmo Ramirez leads major-league relievers with seven losses. His ERA since May 6 is 7.16 after he allowed four runs on three hits and two walks in Thursday's ninth-inning meltdown in a 10-7 loss. That outing followed a perfect inning in Wednesday's win, an effort that looked like the Ramirez from earlier this season. "You see glimpses of it, for sure, but I don't know it's fair to say (he's back)," Cash said. "He had such a long run of success. One outing is not going to say he's back."

DECKER RETURNS: OF Jaff Decker, designed for assignment this week to make room for OF Brandon Guyer, cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A Durham.

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