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Rays journal: Steven Souza Jr. injured, questions 'muddy' field conditions in Oakland

Steven Souza Jr. slides awkwardly into second as he’s tagged out by the A’s Marcus Semien. “I don’t know how it got real muddy out there, but it was not okay,” Souza says of the field conditions.
Steven Souza Jr. slides awkwardly into second as he’s tagged out by the A’s Marcus Semien. “I don’t know how it got real muddy out there, but it was not okay,” Souza says of the field conditions.
Published Jul. 20, 2017

OAKLAND, Calif. — There hasn't been any significant rain for weeks in northern California, but Rays RF Steven Souza Jr. blamed a curiously "extremely muddy" infield for the left hip strain he sustained Wednesday sliding into second that he hopes is more scary than serious.

"I don't know how it got real muddy out there, but it was not okay," he said. "I've never actually slid into a major-league base like that and stuck and felt like I was going deeper in the ground."

Souza had drawn a game-opening walk and was breaking on a 3-2 pitch when he slid awkwardly short of second and jarred his left hip, upon which he had surgery in September and spent the offseason recovering and rehabbing from.

So that added to his concern when he felt sharp pain — "It's very scary" — and needed assistance walking off the field. But he felt progressively better as the afternoon went on and with X-rays negative, he and the Rays are feeling good that further testing won't show any damage and he will be back in the lineup Friday.

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"I'm praying it's nothing, I don't think it's anything," Souza said. "So I get an MRI (today) and make sure it's nothing."

Any extended absence would be costly as Souza is among the Rays leaders with a .271 average, 20 homers, 60 RBIs, .883 OPS. Plus, they don't have an obvious in-house replacement as a right-handed hitting outfielder.

More chances for Snell

LHP Blake Snell remained resolute after his latest unsatisfactory and abbreviated four-inning outing Tuesday that he will figure out how to be successful: "I can do it. I know I can. I'm just going to keep fighting. I'm going to beat it."

And the Rays are going to give him the opportunity. "He's going to make his next start, and he's going to pitch well," manager Kevin Cash said.

Cash has been impressed that Snell, 24, has "really owned" some of his struggles and knows what he needs to do: "I have confidence he's going to get it figured out."

How?

"He's just got to get out of his own way — there's nothing holding him back but himself," pitching coach Jim Hickey said.

"Obviously he has the ability to retire major-league hitters, but he's just got to do it in a more consistent basis. Which is not unusual for a young guy, however, when you're talking about 30 starts, you're no longer a young guy."

Of some interest, the team has RHP Brent Honeywell, its top starting prospect, pitching at Triple-A Durham on the same day as Snell.

TOPKIN'S TAKEAWAYS: Beat writer Marc Topkin's takeaways from Wednesday's Rays-A's game.

Lining up

Assuming Steven Souza Jr. is okay, he will be the primary leadoff hitter, Cash said, with DH/LF Corey Dickerson second and C Wilson Ramos fifth behind the 3-4 duo of 3B Evan Longoria and 1B Logan Morrison. The tradeoff is dropping down CF Mallex Smith, who is in a 1-for-21 skid. "I think the league has made adjustments …on Mallex, and now it's kind of his turn to make some adjustments on the league," manager Kevin Cash said.

Rally guys

Adeiny Hechavarria on Tuesday had the Rays' fourth game-tying hit with two outs in the ninth inning. Before this season, the team's last was in June 2012, by Brooks Conrad in Philadelphia. The list of this season's game-tying hits:

Date Opponent Details

7/18 at Oakland Hechavarria single, tied it 4-4

6/30 at Baltimore Hechavarria single, tied it 3-3

5/31 at Texas Kiermaier solo homer, tied it 4-4

5/28 at Minnesota Souza single, tied it 5-5

THE MARTIN CHRONICLES: Is this a special Rays season? asks columnist Martin Fennelly.

Rally team

Tuesday was the Rays' AL-most fifth win when trailing after eight innings; their 5-39 record this season a big improvement from last year's 0-83. The games:

Date Opponent Result

7/18 at Oakland Trailed 3-2, won 4-3

6/30 at Baltimore Trailed 4-3, won 6-4 (10)

5/31 at Texas Trailed 4-3, won 7-5 (10)

5/28 at Minnesota Trailed 5-3, won 8-6 (15)

4/19 vs. Detroit Trailed 7-6, won 8-7

Miscellany

• 1B/DH Rickie Weeks (shoulder, hand) started what looks to be a weeklong rehab with Triple-A Durham on Wednesday, playing first, going 1-for-3 with two strikeouts. … Rehabbing minor-league pitchers RHP Jaime Schultz (groin) and RHP Burch Smith (elbow) moved up from the GCL Rays to the advanced Class A Stone Crabs.

• Rays video coordinator Jeremy Sowers had a good trip, as three of the Rays four challenges resulted in reversals.

• RHP Andrew Kittredge lost track of how many messages he got from family, friends and former teammates after making his big-league debut Tuesday. Plus he had one of his five sisters (and her husband and son), his fiancee (and her parents) and a couple of buddies, and his parents, brother and others watching on TV in Spokane, Wash. "Pretty cool," said Kittredge, the youngest of seven. Plus he got the ball from his first out.

Steven Souza Jr.'s home run Tuesday was clocked with an exit velocity of 113.2 mph, highest by a Ray for a homer since StatCast was implemented in 2015.

• SS Jake Cronenworth and RHP Drew Smith (the PTBNL in the Mikie Mahtook trade with Detroit) were promoted to Double-A Montgomery.