ST. PETERSBURG — The crutches in Brandon Lowe’s locker and the ultrasound device tucked inside the compression sock on his deeply bruised right leg Thursday were clear indicators he wouldn’t be playing anytime soon.
The Rays placing him on the 10-day injured list also knocks him out of Tuesday’s All-Star Game that he was excited to be chosen for. Nate Lowe, no relation, was called up.
Now the question shifts to how long Brandon Lowe will be out.
He said he was feeling “much better” Thursday than Wednesday, which was the day after he fouled consecutive pitches off his right shin. He said he was “able to walk on it with some assistance.’’
Lowe still plans to go to Cleveland and take part in the All-Star festivities, including standing (without crutches he hopes) on the foul line for the classic introductions, with Rays mates Austin Meadows and Charlie Morton. Lowe was replaced on the All-Star roster by Yankees infielder Gleyber Torres.
Manager Kevin Cash said he hopes to have Lowe for the weekend series in Baltimore after next week’s All-Star break. “Everything we’re getting right now is it’s going to be a short-term thing,’’ he said. “It’s all about how he responds and continues to make progress. Obviously, he’s still very sore.’’
As disappointing as the injury was for Lowe, who leads the Rays with 16 homers and 49 RBIs, he was thankful not to be hurt worse. He made the All-Star team as a replacement for Angels infielder Tommy La Stella, who similarly fouled a ball off his leg Tuesday and sustained a fractured tibia that will keep him out 8-10 weeks.
Nate Lowe, meanwhile, was deserving of the promotion after a sizzling month at Triple-A Durham, hitting .340 with nine homers, 26 RBIs and a 1.122 OPS in 28 games, including three homers Tuesday, since being sent down after his second stint in the majors this season.
“When I went back (to the minors) the first time, it was kind of weird, kind of hard to get up for it again,’’ Lowe said. “Then I realized, like, I’ve just got to do what I’ve got to do, and that’s that.’’
Alvarado in a lesser role?
Over his first three games since returning from an extended family related leave, high-leverage reliever Jose Alvarado has looked like a pitcher rusty from a month away, or worse. Wednesday against the Orioles was particularly rough as he came into a game tied at 3 in the ninth and made a huge mess, allowing six runs. But Alvarado wasn’t pitching all that well before he left on June 2, posting a 12.46 ERA over his last 11 outings total.
All of which leaves the Rays in a tricky spot, further complicated by the July 31 trade deadline: balancing Alvarado’s recent struggles and not wanting to let any more games get away, with the need to get him back to his past form as he is still a big part of their future.
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The solution, for now? Look to pitch him in lower-leverage situations.
“In all fairness to him, us, probably try to find a softer spot for him,’’ Cash said. “Unfortunately we don’t have many soft spots, and there’s not a soft spot when you face the New York Yankees.
“We certainly can’t run from him because, him, Diego (Castillo), those guys have got to get big outs for us to be good.’’
Brendan McKay would be hard-pressed to match his dazzling, near-perfect June 29 debut against any team, much less against the potent Yankees. But the rookie lefty can certainly try Friday in his second big-league pitching start, having also DH’d for a game since, by focusing on executing quality pitches. “There’s no real drop in their lineup,’’ said McKay, who retired Aaron Judge twice while the Yankees slugger was playing in a minor-league rehab game. “You’ve got to be thinking every time, make this the best pitch you’ve thrown all game or even your whole life. It’s going to be a fun game to pitch in. You’re going to be on the whole time thinking what you’re going to do.’’
More medical matters
Centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier plans to rejoin the lineup Friday after not starting for a second straight day due to soreness in his left wrist that he jammed sliding on Sunday. …. Reliever Diego Castillo (shoulder inflammation) was sharp and showed good velocity in a 20-something pitch bullpen session Thursday, with plans to throw batting practice Friday, face hitters Tuesday in Port Charlotte and rejoin the Rays right after the break. … Infielder Matt Duffy, sidelined all season with a hamstring issue, started another rehab assignment, going 1-for-2 and playing third for the Gulf Coast League team, with plans to move up to advanced Class A Charlotte and Triple-A Durham. “Let him go play. He knows he has a little bit of a road ahead of him but start getting his at-bats and see where that takes us,’’ Cash said. “He felt good going out probably, as he said, the best he has ever felt going on a rehab this season.”
• Right-hander Jake Faria was called up and worked an impressive three-strikeout eighth. Austin Pruitt was sent down.
• Actor Hugh Jackman, who is performing Friday at Amalie Arena, was at the game cheering on the visitors.
• The Rays drew 62,911 for the three games against the Orioles with more than 30,000 of the $2 tickets sold.
• Lowe, Meadows and Morton will be honored for their All-Star selections before Friday’s game and presented their jerseys.