Rays journal: Why Andrew Friedman’s return to Trop was more comfortable this time

Former Rays head of baseball ops said he still roots for his old team and close friends. Also, injury updates on several Rays.
Andrew Friedman, president of baseball operations for the Los Angeles Dodgers and former general manager of the Tampa Bay Rays, right, talks with Rays athletic trainer Joe Benge. (CHRIS URSO  |   Times)
Andrew Friedman, president of baseball operations for the Los Angeles Dodgers and former general manager of the Tampa Bay Rays, right, talks with Rays athletic trainer Joe Benge. (CHRIS URSO | Times)
Published May 21

ST. PETERSBURG — The second time around as a visitor to the place he used to call home is easier for Andrew Friedman.

The first time he came back in 2016, less than two years after leaving as the Rays’ chief of baseball operations to take over the Dodgers was a bit uncomfortable.

“It was a little bit more challenging,’’ he said Tuesday in the visiting dugout, greeting a steady stream of former colleagues. “Human instinct was to take a left into the home clubhouse. Now enough time has passed where I’m able to just appreciate it and catch up with people I haven’t seen in a while.’’

Friedman spent nine years as Tampa Bay’s de facto GM, leading the transformation from losing Devil Rays to contending Rays. Though a number of faces have changed since he left for a lucrative offer and a different challenge in October 2014, he still has the feels for the organization and the remaining top execs.

“It’s always very special when I come back,’’ he said. “There are a lot of really special memories here, there are a lot of people I’m still incredibly close and whose families I’m close to as well.’’

And, on most days, he’s still watching the Rays and pulling for them.

“For sure,’’ he said. “With the time zone advantage, being able to put their games on at 4 o’clock while doing work in my office I still feel incredibly close to (TV broadcasters) Dewayne (Staats) and BA (Brian Anderson). I still get to hear their sweet sounds quite often. “I still very much root for these guys. Just a lot of close friends. Pull for them – outside of these four games (two this week, two in September) we’re gonna play them. It’s been fun to watch what they’ve done.’’

Diaz still sore

Yandy Diaz was in the original lineup at first base but then scratched after he took some swings and felt too much pain in his bruised left hand, which was hit by a pitch, intentionally he said, Sunday in New York. Ji-Man Choi replaced Diaz at first. Manager Kevin Cash said the Rays did additional testing that confirmed the initial x-rays showing no fracture, and Diaz’s return was a matter of pain tolerance. Cash said Diaz didn’t feel much better during the night Tuesday and didn’t seem likely to play Wednesday.

Medical updates on Glasnow, catchers, Wendle

Right-hander Tyler Glasnow said he feels “really good” and is “very optimistic” about the progress with the forearm strain, which he identified as a flexor issue, that has sidelined him since May 10. Glasnow threw a tennis ball on Monday but has yet to play catch, which will be the first of several checkpoints. He was initially slated to be out four-to-six weeks and said Tuesday he didn’t any update on the timetable. “I’ve progressed a lot faster than I thought I would,’’ he said.

Cash said both injured catchers, Mike Zunino (quad) and Michael Perez (oblique) were “progressing well” and with no setbacks could begin rehab assignments sometime next week. Zunino has recently started running and getting in a crouch to catch pitches; he has been hitting and throwing since being hurt May 8. Zunino was first projected to miss four-weeks but said “I’m hoping it’s on the earlier end than that.’’

Infielder Joey Wendle gets a four-week x-ray of his broken right wrist on Wednesday with the possibility he could shed his removable hard cast and start activities. He hopes to back playing sometime in June.

Rehab report

Matt Duffy (hamstring) moved his rehab to Triple-A Durham on Tuesday and, with time since he’s not eligible to return until May 27, got a look in leftfield, which was part of the spring training plan before he got hurt. Though primarily a third baseman in the majors, Duffy has also played shortstop during his rehab and could get some time there when he returns. He was 0-for-4 Tuesday. … Lefty Anthony Banda seems ahead of schedule, throwing his first live batting practice on Tuesday in rehab from June 14 Tommy John surgery, throwing 15 pitches as he plans to reintroduce the curveball to his repertoire.

Miscellany

* In pushing Blake Snell’s next start to Friday and and Charlie Morton’s to Saturday for an extra day’s rest, the Rays need a starter or bulk-inning pitcher for Thursday’s series opener in Cleveland. That seems likely to be lefty Ryan Yarbrough, who is 2-0, 2.14 in four games since being sent to Triple-A and last worked Friday.

* Dodgers reliever Pedro Baez had to be helped off the field after being hit on the right leg by a ball hit an estimated 103 mph by Willy Adames in the seventh. Baez said he thought his leg was fractured but x-rays came back negative.

* Righty Aaron Slegers, who was designated for assignment last week, cleared waivers and was outrighted back to Triple-A Durham.

* The announced crowd of 15,862 included a loud group of Dodgers fans.

* The Rays are 5-9 overall against the Dodgers, 4-5 at the Trop.

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