Friday, November 17, 2017
Tampa Bay Rays

Ugly loss part of a day of significant developments for Rays

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ST. PETERSBURG — Monday was multi-mirror ugly for the Rays, so much so that manager Kevin Cash opened his postgame media session by saying the "best news of the day" was that X-rays showed no break in Evan Longoria's hit-by-a-pitch right hand.

The 7-3 loss was another bad one in a miserable season, from the way Matt Andriese let it spiral out of control, allowing five two-out runs in a brutal fifth, to their meek and meager efforts at the plate, shut down by Baltimore's not-so-mighty Ubaldo Jimenez, who allowed only a walk after the first inning in spinning a complete-game two-hitter.

And yet those were not the most interesting developments, as the Rays continued to show they are focused on what is best for 2017.

For one, newly acquired shortstop Matt Duffy is expected to be shut down this week to have season-ending surgery to address the lingering soreness stemming from his earlier left Achilles injury, the Tampa Bay Times has learned, with the idea he will be ready by spring.

For another, it seems all but certain that neither Tim Beckham, who started 23 games at short, nor Taylor Motter, who logged seven, will get the opportunity to play in his place. Both have fallen enough out of favor that they were not among the five players the Rays called up after the game, and though they are still said to be a part of the 2017 plans, that was a significant statement by the organization.

The not-so-dynamic duo apparently did enough wrong, as much as they how they acted as how they played, that the Rays are taking a strong stand, willing to instead patch their way through the rest of the season at shortstop without Duffy.

That means Brad Miller will get additional chances to again be a major-league shortstop, as he was adamant that he was before the Rays said otherwise in trading for Duffy on Aug. 1 and moving Miller to first base.

Also, that Nick Franklin, who looks to be a leading candidate for a '17 utility job, will get time at short, where he once seemed headed to play.

Another possibility would be for the Rays to — albeit uncharacteristically — opt to summon one of their younger prospects such as Daniel Robertson, who had a solid season at Durham. Or, maybe more likely, to go find somebody, anybody, like maybe available veteran Alexei Ramirez.

The point seems more about who isn't there than who is.

The Duffy decision makes sense as the soreness, stemming from the mid June Achilles strain he sustained while playing for the Giants at the Trop and that landed him on the DL until Aug. 12, has been an ongoing issue, especially — insert red flag emoji here — playing on the hard turf.

"The soreness seems to come on a little quicker when we're at home," he said.

The Rays knew at the time of the trade that Duffy was likely to have the relatively simple procedure — shaving down his heel bone to reduce irritation and inflammation with the Achilles — at some point. This way, he got a chance to get acclimated with his new team and now will have time to be fully recovered for February in Port Charlotte.

"We want to be 100 percent sure that we're ready to go by next season," Duffy said. "I guess that's one of the concerns."

Beckham was sent down to Triple A immediately after Wednesday's game following the latest in a series of baserunning and other mental mistakes, a move for which the Rays should be commended for quick action.

There was talk then he would be called back up, but he took his time joining Durham, then initially said he couldn't play due to hamstring tightness (which hadn't seemed to be an issue in the majors) before finally getting on the field Monday.

So it may be his own fault as much as anything he wasn't summoned with pitchers Steve Geltz, Justin Marks and Chase Whitley, outfielder Mikie Mahtook and swingman Richie Shaffer.

There are some ramifications to not recalling Beckham: it costs him money ($2,811 a day in big-league salary) and service time that could keep him from qualifying for Super 2 arbitration eligibility, and it might burn his last option (since otherwise his demotions would last less than 20 days), which limits flexibility for him and the team for next year.

But those are all secondary to the bigger message.

As for Motter, there was never anything said by anyone about any disciplinary issue, but the prima facie evidence of his last callup was certainly curious, as it lasted for just one day with no onfield factors in play, and he hasn't been back since despite several opportunities.

The Rays are doing what they feel is right going forward, setting precedent. And that will be clear over the next five weeks as Miller, Franklin and somebody else play short, as Duffy mends and as Beckham and Motter stew.

Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected] Follow @ TBTimes_Rays.

     
           
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