Matt Duffy joins Rays, nears return to active roster

Infielder Matt Duffy returned to Florida to join his teammates on Sunday, and the Rays could activate him during the Boston series this week.
DIRK SHADD   |   TimesTampa Bay Rays Matt Duffy talks with reporters after  taking batting practice before the Rays take on the Boston Red Sox at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, on Monday, July 22, 2019. Duffy has been placed on the 60-day injured list due to back and hamstring discomfort.
DIRK SHADD | TimesTampa Bay Rays Matt Duffy talks with reporters after taking batting practice before the Rays take on the Boston Red Sox at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, on Monday, July 22, 2019. Duffy has been placed on the 60-day injured list due to back and hamstring discomfort.
Published July 22

ST. PETERSBURG — Matt Duffy has had a long road back to the major league diamond, and the infielder feels like a newly promoted rookie all over again.

Duffy, the Rays’ primary third baseman last season, has yet to appear in a big league game this year. He appeared in two spring training games, but lingering hamstring and back discomfort landed the 28-year-old on the 60-day injured list on opening day.

Now, after spending over 100 games on the shelf, Duffy is set to join the active roster during the Red Sox series.

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“I feel like it’s opening day,” Duffy said. “When they called me to tell me to get on a flight to come back, I felt like I was getting called up to the big leagues again.”

Rays manager Kevin Cash said that the team will be coming up with a plan for Duffy going into Tuesday.

“Duffy’s really close,” Cash said. “He looks good.”

After flying into Florida on Sunday, Duffy appeared at Tropicana Field before Monday’s series opener against the Red Sox. He fielded ground balls on the infield dirt and took swings during team batting practice.

DIRK SHADD   |   TimesTampa Bay Rays Matt Duffy takes batting practice before the Rays take on the Boston Red Sox at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, on Monday, July 22, 2019. Duffy has been placed on the 60-day injured list due to back and hamstring discomfort.
DIRK SHADD | TimesTampa Bay Rays Matt Duffy takes batting practice before the Rays take on the Boston Red Sox at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, on Monday, July 22, 2019. Duffy has been placed on the 60-day injured list due to back and hamstring discomfort.

Duffy said he feels comfortable at the plate despite his long absence. In his most recent rehab start, a Saturday appearance with the Triple-A Durham Bulls, Duffy homered against Indianapolis.

“Things can be a little different in the big leagues,” Duffy said. “It’s a different ball game, I guess, but I’m feeling good.”

Duffy made 121 starts at third base in 2018 . He made one appearance at shortstop, fielding the position for only 1/3 of an inning. The infielder said that he is ready to contribute at any position.

“I don’t really see myself as a third baseman,” Duffy said. “I see myself as an infielder. … We’re defenders, and wherever it is in the infield, I’m pretty comfortable.”

The Rays will have to make a corresponding move on the 25-man and 40-man rosters when Duffy is reactivated.

Injured opener

Ryne Stanek landed on the 10-day injured list on Saturday with right hip soreness. He took two days off from playing catch before resuming baseball activities Monday, but the bullpen arm and primary opener hopes for a short stint off the active roster. In his absence, Stanek said that Diego Castillo, Andrew Kittredge and Hunter Wood can fill the opener role.

"We have a lot of good arms and a lot of guys that have done it before,” Stanek said. “Nobody’s surprised by their role, even if it changes.”

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Settling in

Right-handed pitcher Yonny Chirinos has transitioned from a long relief arm to a full-time member of the starting rotation. Through his first 10 outings, Chirinos made four starts and six appearances out of the bullpen. Over his last 10 outings, all starts, Chirinos has a 3.38 ERA while averaging over six innings.

“I’ve always prepared and I’ve always worked as if I was a starter,” Chirinos said. “Thank God my body feels good up until this point.”

Chirinos has already thrown 112 innings, surpassing his total of 89 2/3 innings from 2018. His career high in innings pitched is 168 1/3 in 2017 between class Double-A Montgomery and class Triple-A Durham.

Miscellany

Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg and team presidents Brian Auld and Matt Silverman will meet Tuesday with St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman and deputy mayor Kanika Tomalin for initial discussion of their plan to play parts of future seasons in Montreal starting in 2024. The Rays need city approval to explore specifics given terms of their use agreement at the Trop.

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