The story of the allergic reaction that sidelined Rays’ Daniel Robertson

Pecans in a sweet potato dish caused him to have to leave Thursday’s game in the fifth inning.
The Rays' Daniel Robertson, here making a throw from third against the Royals on April 22, 2019, left Thursday's game in Cleveland during the fifth inning. Robertson, who has a severe nut allergy, had an allergic reaction after earlier eating a sweet potato dish that he didn't know contained pecan crumbles.
The Rays' Daniel Robertson, here making a throw from third against the Royals on April 22, 2019, left Thursday's game in Cleveland during the fifth inning. Robertson, who has a severe nut allergy, had an allergic reaction after earlier eating a sweet potato dish that he didn't know contained pecan crumbles.
Published May 24
Updated May 24

CLEVELAND — It was maybe 20 minutes before first pitch Thursday when Daniel Robertson ate a couple of bites of a sweet potato dish in the clubhouse food room and got that familiar and quite concerning first sign of trouble.

“I was going to go out and stretch and I started feeling the tickle in my throat,’’ he recounted Friday. “And I was like, ‘That’s not good.’ ”

Unbeknownst to Robertson — and, he pointed out, unlabeled by the staff — there were pecans mixed in with the potato. And for anyone with a severe nut allergy, that’s a bad thing, even worse one trying to play a major-league game.

Shortly thereafter, Robertson started getting other symptoms — shortness of breath, itching, a rash and a reddening of his face.

He popped a Benadryl pill, and while his teammates were hitting in the first inning, he was in the dugout tunnel shoving fingers down his throat to make himself throw up, “trying to get it out of me.’’

He knew it was too late, especially as he noticed red splotches on his arms and felt the itching. But he insisted he could play, then wanted to stay in as long as he could, making a couple of plays at third, even rapping a single.

At one point, shortstop Willy Adames noticed how red Robertson’s face was and walked over on the field to ask if he was okay. Manager Kevin Cash decided he had seen enough, noting how vigorously Robertson was rubbing his spikes on the ground to try to soothe the itching, and took him out in the fifth inning.

Robertson said too much time had passed for an Epinephrine shot, so he got more Benadryl and other oral medicine, went back to the hotel and slept it off. He woke up Friday feeling fine but was not in the lineup, though he pinch-hit in the sixth and stayed in to play third, and was involved in a key play in the pivotal eighth inning of the 3-1 loss.

“It’s happened my whole life,’’ Robertson said. “It sucks that I can’t even get a little meal in me before a game without having to worry about whether there’s nuts in it, or not being warned, or not having a sign saying these sweet potatoes contain nuts.

“Which, by the way, who the heck puts pecans in sweet potatoes?’’

McKay will stay a two-way player at Triple A

Brendan McKay will continue to DH three days and, more importantly, pitch once every six days as he did at Double-A Montgomery before being promoted to Triple-A Durham, with his first Bulls start on the mound set for Tuesday.

The 2017 first-round pick, and the Rays’ top healthy pitching prospect, earned the move by going 3-0, 1.30 with 62 strikeouts in 41⅔ innings for the Biscuits. In his last outing Wednesday, he also worked for the first time behind an opener, which might come in handy if/when he gets promoted again to the Rays later (or sooner?) this season.

“He’s closer to where he wants to get, and he’s closer to where we would like to get him,’’ Cash said. “I think that’s good they put somebody in front of him to where he at least has experienced that. I have no idea if that’s something we would consider if and when he ever gets here, but why not explore that a little bit in the minor leagues while he continues to develop.’’

McKay is hitting only .167 with two extra-base hits and a .448 OPS, but Cash said the plan, at least initially, is to keep him on the same program.

Historic homers

The Rays made some history Thursday with Tommy Pham, Kevin Kiermaier and Avisail Garcia all homering. It was the first time in their 22-season franchise history that three or more players homered in back-to-back team games. And it was just the third time their three starting outfielders homered in the same game, also April 28, 2018, at Boston (Denard Span, Johnny Field, Carlos Gomez) and June 30, 2006, at Washington (Carl Crawford, Rocco Baldelli, Damon Hollins).

Number of the day

347-349

Record for Cash as manager of the Rays in four-plus seasons.

Miscellany

• Cash said there was no update on infielder Matt Duffy, who left a Wednesday rehab game for Durham after feeling discomfort in his hamstring.

• Brandon Lowe tends to run hot and cold, and Friday was frigid as he struck out four time. Lowe leads the Rays with 10 homers but also with 65 strikeouts.

• Advanced Class A Charlotte infielders Vidal Brujan and Jim Haley were named to the South Division team for the June 15 Florida State League All-Star Game.

• There is concern about rain impacting play Saturday and even more so Sunday.

• Monday’s Memorial Day game will feature the U.S. Special Operations Command rappel team descending from the A-ring catwalk to deliver the game ball.

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