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Matt Duffy remains confident of playing for Rays in 2019, goes to see hamstring specialist

Duffy has been sidelined since spring training. Also, Brendan McKay makes dazzling AAA debut, All-Star ballots released.
Avisail Garcia received lots of congratulations after his inside-the-park homer. [ALLIE GOULDING | Times]
Avisail Garcia received lots of congratulations after his inside-the-park homer. [ALLIE GOULDING | Times]
Published May 29, 2019
Updated May 29, 2019

ST. PETERSBURG – Infielder Matt Duffy’s quest to get past ongoing hamstring issues took him to Dallas for a visit Wednesday with a specialist he hopes can provide good news.

“It’s obvious it’s not a straightforward hamstring (strain),’’ Duffy said. “So we’ll get his opinion and see where we go from there.’’

Duffy was on track to make his season debut with the Rays this week until feeling some discomfort during a rehab game with Triple-A Durham on May 22.

That was even more frustrating because he was so encouraged rehabbing the previous week with the Stone Crabs, starting “to feel like I was out of the woods and I was just playing baseball now.’’

Related: RELATED: Rays do a lot well in beating Jays but few are there to see it with record low Trop crowd

Duffy will see Dr. Daniel Cooper, who did hamstring surgery on former Ray Evan Longoria, among other pro athletes.

Duffy said he considers the latest setback more “like a slight aggravation,’’ and doesn’t think he will need surgery. “If that was the case I don’t think I would have felt good for a week in Port Charlotte,’’ he said.

Duffy remains optimistic he will play this season, but understands the skepticism based on his 2017 experience, when an ongoing foot injury kept him out all year.

“I’m not at that stage yet but with what happened in 2017 I think we can all see it going that road,’’ he said. “So that’s why we want to go see what this guy has to say.’’

More medical

Catcher Mike Zunino (quad strain) started a rehab assignment Tuesday with the advanced Class A Stone Crabs and could rejoin the Rays as soon as this weekend. He went 3-for-3 with two walks playing into the seventh, slated to play again Thursday and Friday. “He seems like he’s in a really good spot,’’ manager Kevin Cash said. “We’ll probably get through the first three games and see where he’s at. If all goes well we’ll start making decisions on when we can get him back. … Infielder Yandy Diaz felt some pain in his bruised left hand when testing it taking live batting practice Tuesday, which is not a good sign. Diaz was hit by a pitch in New York May 19 and when he was still sore May 23 placed on the injured list retroactively. … Lefty Anthony Banda threw 25 pitches in his third live batting practice session, “excited” and quite pleased with his progress in recovery from June Tommy John and “absolutely” expects to pitch in majors this season.

McKay sharp in Triple-A debut

Lefty pitching prospect Brendan McKay made a dazzling Triple-A debut, working five scoreless innings for Durham against Louisville, allowing three hits while striking out four with no walks. He threw 65 pitches, with 39 for strikes. McKay, the team’s 2017 first-round pick, was promoted after going 3-0, 1.30 in eight games for Double-A Montgomery, striking out 62 and walking only nine in 41 2/3 innings. He will continue to work as a two-way player with the Bulls, starting once every six days and DH-ing three times.

Starry eyed

MLB released the All-Star ballots Tuesday, as well as a new, complicated two-step online process to determine the starters, with voting for three finalists running through June 21 on mlb.com, team sites and via Google search, then a new round of voting on June 26-27 to name the winners.

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Rays on the ballot are Mike Zunino, catcher; Ji-Man Choi, first base; Brandon Lowe, second base; Willy Adames, shortstop; Yandy Diaz, third base; Avisail Garcia, DH; and outfielders Kevin Kiermaier, Austin Meadows Tommy Pham.

“I certainly hope that our fans and major-league baseball fans recognize that we’ve got a lot of players that are worthy of consideration,’’ Cash said, mentioning Meadows, Lowe, Garcia and Diaz. “There’s a reason we have the record that we have now and it’s a credit to our players. To get to this point you’ve got to have really good players performing and I feel like we’ve represented that very well.’’

Miscellany

* The Rays have won four straight, their third longest streak of the season, and have won of six of seven. They clinched a fifth consecutive full month with a winning record, going back to last July.

* This was the 35th time in 52 games Rays pitchers have yielded three or fewer runs.

* Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said coming back to the Trop as a visitor has been a little weird. “First time I’ve been in this clubhouse,’’ he said. “I didn’t even know how to get to the dugout from here.’’ He has enjoyed visiting with former colleagues still with the Rays, and ran into several of their execs holding draft meetings at the Vinoy Renaissance hotel, where the Jays are staying.

* A moment of silence was held pre-game for 22-year big-leaguer Bill Buckner and Gerry Fraley, a longtime baseball writer with Tampa Bay ties, who died recently.

* The Rays on Thursday are offering $2 kids tickets, with purchase of a full-price adult ticket.