Rays second base candidate Nick Franklin strains left oblique

Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Nick Franklin needs a web-only caption. WILL VRAGOVIC  |  Times
Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Nick Franklin needs a web-only caption. WILL VRAGOVIC | Times
Published March 24, 2015

PORT CHARLOTTE — Picking Asdrubal Cabrera as the shortstop was the easier part of the middle infield equation for the Rays. When INF Nick Franklin strained his left oblique Monday, it was the other decision that got a whole lot trickier.

Franklin pulled his muscle on the last swing of batting practice and was scratched from the lineup before the Rays' 7-6 spring training loss to the Pirates. Rays manager Kevin Cash said he's not optimistic about having Franklin back by opening day.

"There's really no timetable at all, I just know I've got to be there in treatment every single day," Franklin said. "I know they don't want to rush with it. It's something, if you rush with it, you could probably end up making it worse."

With Cabrera being what Cash called the obvious choice for a simple reason — "He makes the everyday play" — the Rays now will sort out how best to staff second base.

It was supposed to be a platoon with Franklin and Logan Forsythe, but it could be a rotation involving at least one other from a group of Tim Beckham (who has the advantage of being on the 40-man roster), Alexi Casilla and Jake Elmore.

Franklin's injury could mean a break for another contender.

"It messes up his plan and maybe our plan," Cash said, "but it opens up an opportunity for some of the other guys we have here."

The rap on Cabrera, 29, was that his range had supposedly diminished.

Cabrera said he was motivated to prove those critics wrong, increasing his offseason workouts in Venezuela and reporting to camp 5-7 pounds lighter. "Once I hear people say I lost some range, it didn't make me feel good," he said. "So I just want to show the people I can still play short."

DODGING DISASTER: RHP Chris Archer's outing Monday might not have gone totally as planned. With two outs in the third inning, he walked three straight before striking out pitcher A.J. Burnett to get the Rays out of the inning unscathed.

Despite the blip, Cash liked what he saw from his likely opening day starter.

"I thought he threw the ball really well," Cash said. "You take that out — I know we can't do that — but if you take that out, he's as sharp as we've seen him all spring."

Archer said he didn't feel totally in sync in the third, but he was pleased with the recovery.

"I'm trying not to focus on that so much as I got out of that inning and came out the next inning and executed every single pitch I threw," he said.

MEDICAL MATTERS: LHP Drew Smyly (shoulder tendinitis) threw 30 pitches, all fastballs, in his second bullpen session Monday. He'll throw another bullpen Thursday. … OF Brandon Guyer was out of the lineup again, this time due to a mild ankle sprain, and is targeted for six-nine at-bats in a minor-league game Wednesday. … C Rene Rivera (left calf tightness) is scheduled to return to the lineup Wednesday. … RHP Alex Cobb (forearm tendinitis) said he is close to pain free and will see Dr. Koco Eaton today for a scheduled checkup. … RHP Alex Colome (pneumonia) threw 20 pitches, at about 70 percent, in the first of what he said will be three bullpen sessions. … RHP Ronald Belisario (left shoulder fracture) will have his first bullpen session Thursday. … OF Steven Souza Jr. (right forearm tightness) was back in the lineup after leaving Friday's game, then got hit by a pitch.

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GAME PLAY: The Rays (9-9-1) took a 2-0 lead in the first when Cabrera grounded out, driving home David DeJesus, then James Loney had an RBI single to score Forsythe. … The Pirates tied it at 6 when Gorkys Hernandez hit a solo home run off Grant Balfour in his first spring outing. … Wilkin Castillo singled home the winning run for the Pirates in the ninth inning.