LAKELAND — Despite his attempts to overcome a nagging hamstring injury that kept him out of games for most of spring training, Rays third baseman Matt Duffy will open the season on the injured list.
“I think we did everything,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “The training staff did a great job, Matt did a great job of trying to get back. Time just beat us up a little bit.”
Duffy, who was scratched from the starting lineup for Saturday’s road Grapefruit League game against the Tigers, said he felt encouraged after getting nine at-bats in minor-league games Friday. While he said his primary concern in being ready for Thursday’s regular-season opener would be getting his timing at the plate, he added Friday that the big test would be to see how he felt Saturday after two days of action. Clearly, the results were not good.
Now that Duffy’s readiness for opening day is out of the question, Cash said the Rays will likely slow down his progress to ensure the injury is completely resolved when he returns. Duffy was slated to have additional tests done on Saturday and isn’t likely to do any baseball activities for the next couple days.
“I would imagine we would take our time with this and try to get it under wraps,” Cash said. “We didn’t want to rush it, but our best team is with him on the roster.”
With Duffy out, Yandy Diaz, Daniel Robertson and Joey Wendle will rotate at third base to open the season. To fill Duffy’s roster spot, the Rays are most likely to carry outfielder Guillermo Heredia, who was acquired from Seattle in the off-season Mallex Smith-Mike Zunino trade, or carry a 13th pitcher.
Duffy could be placed on the 10-day IL on Monday so he could miss just the first seven days of the regular season. A quick return would allow him to rejoin the Rays for their April 5-7 series in San Francisco, where he used to play for the Giants.
After Friday’s final home spring training home game, the Rays officially broke big league camp in Port Charlotte and will hold their remaining workouts leading up to Opening Day at Tropicana Field. Cash said the workouts will allow players to become adjusted to the stadium’s new LED lighting and also get a feel for the newly-installed artificial turf.
Teams have until noon on Thursday to officially set their opening day rosters, but Cash said he hopes the final roster decisions are made well before then. “I certainly hope we’re not that late, but sometimes they go down to the wire,” Cash said. “But I don’t think that plan will be that late for sure.”