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Rays Journal: Austin Meadows, Hunter Wood close to return, but Michael Perez out of lineup

Perez was scratched from lineup with oblique soreness. Also, Brent Honeywell has been shut down again from throwing.
Rays centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier makes a leaping catch in the fifth inning. [DIRK SHADD | Times]
Rays centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier makes a leaping catch in the fifth inning. [DIRK SHADD | Times]
Published May 8, 2019
Updated May 8, 2019

ST. PETERSBURG – Tuesday seemed like a good news day for the Rays injury wise.

There was word that outfielder Austin Meadows was likely to be ready to join the lineup for the weekend series against the second-place Yankees. That reliever Hunter Wood’s shoulder felt good enough for a return as soon as Sunday. And that the pause in infielder Matt Duffy’s rehab assignment would only last a few days.

But then there was bad news as catcher Michael Perez was scratched from the lineup shortly before game time due to right oblique tightness.

That would seem to be of some concern, given the potential for a lengthy absence if it were to be strained, and he will be checked by the doctors.

“I’m not sure which way it’s going to go, but it’s an oblique, and those generally aren’t the best,’’ manager Kevin Cash said.

Mike Zunino started in Tuesday’s 6-3 victory over the D’backs and will start again Wednesday. Nick Ciuffo would be the likely callup if Perez goes on the injured list

Meadows, out since April 21, was slated to work out with the Rays again Tuesday but felt so good after a Monday session that he instead went to play in an extended spring training game. He is slated to do so again Wednesday and if all goes well is set to be activated for Friday’s game.

Wood, shelved Thursday with shoulder soreness, said an MRI was clean, he felt good throwing a bullpen session Tuesday, plans to throw in an extended spring game Friday and be ready when eligible Sunday. Manager Kevin Cash said they’d see how he felt after Friday before deciding if he’d make a second rehab start.

Duffy, out since spring training, said his back is fine and his hamstring felt good up to about 85 percent but he wasn’t comfortable going all out for the first time in a game. So after playing two rehab games over the weekend he came to the Trop to work on strengthening drills and expects to start playing games again shortly.

“I tried as hard as I could (Tuesday) to make it hurt and it went really well,’’ Duffy said. “That’s a good thing.’’

Also, top pitching prospect Brent Honeywell, who has been rehabbing from spring 2018 Tommy John surgery, was shut down from throwing again due to possible nerve issue in his upper arm, will see a doctor next week for testing. He was shut down in mid-April due to elbow discomfort and recently resumed playing catch.

Pitcher Jose De Leon, also rehabbing from spring 2018 Tommy John, is scheduled for his second rehab start Thursday with the Stone Crabs,

Arizona view

Merrill Kelly didn’t pitch well for the D’backs on Monday, knocked out after allowing seven runs in four innings. But just pitching at the Trop meant something for him after being drafted by the Rays in 2010 and spending five years in their system, topping out at Triple-A in 2014, before deciding to go to Korea. He spent four seasons there then signed with Arizona in December and made his big-league debut.

“To come back and throw where I had envisioned all those years was pretty cool,’’ Kelly said Tuesday. “A lot of our media was asking if I had this game circled and if there was a chip and that kind of stuff. It wasn’t anything like that, it was more just the thought of being here, and the fact that I’m in the big leagues.’’

Kelly said he especially enjoyed seeing Rays coach Ozzie Timmons and Kevin Kiermaier, who he played with and roomed with in the minors.

Matt Andriese, traded by the Rays to Arizona last July, also enjoyed the visit, ducking into the clubhouse to see some staff. “It felt kind of different walking in here,’’ he said. “But it’s been good.’

A Rays-Ray matchup

Wednesday presents the Rays vs. Ray matchup. The Rays faced Arizona starter Robbie Ray once before, in 2016. And they had plenty of looks, 29 total, from 2005-11 at Orioles reliever Chris Ray, who happened to be from Tampa. The only other pitcher they’ve faced named Ray was Cardinals reliever Ray King in 2005.

“Crowd” control

Tuesday’s announced attendance of 8,059, coming after Monday’s 8,124, was not only the smallest of the season, but the worst since the record low of 6,509 on Sept. 5, 2017 and 7,185 on Sept. 6, 2017 for games played in advance of Hurricane Irma. Before that you have to go back to the 101-loss 2006 season for smaller crowds, when they had four of 8,028 and under.

Miscellany

* Industry chatter is that the Rays will get a younger player with some prospect status, though not a top guy, from the Mets in the Wilmer Font trade. It should be finalized in the next couple weeks.

* Lefty Brendan McKay was named the Rays top April minor-league pitcher, going 0-0, 2.41 with 33 strikeouts (and only four walks) in 18 2/3 innings over four starts for Double-A Montgomery. Infielder Jake Cronenworth was the top player after hitting .370 with .994 OPS for Triple-A Durham.

* Pitching prospect Shane Baz, acquired from the Pirates with Tyler Glasnow and Austin Meadows, was promoted from extended spring to Class A Bowling Green, and lefty Michael Plassmeyer, acquired from Seattle with Mike Zunino and Guillermo Heredia, to the Stone Crabs after going 2-1, 1.33 for the Hot Rods.

* Radio guys Andy Freed and Dave Wills will broadcast Wednesday’s game from seats in the stands in Section 104.