Rays’ Austin Meadows returns to workouts after coronavirus case

Notes: The 2019 All-Star is in Port Charlotte with no timetable yet for his return; Thompson shares emotions with dad.
Austin Meadows was the Rays' top home-run hitter, All-Star and co-team MVP in 2019.
Austin Meadows was the Rays' top home-run hitter, All-Star and co-team MVP in 2019. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published July 25, 2020|Updated July 26, 2020

ST. PETERSBURG — Outfielder Austin Meadows, sidelined for three weeks due to testing positive for the coronavirus, was cleared to return, working out Saturday with the Rays squad in Port Charlotte.

How quickly Meadows, an All-Star and the team’s co-MVP last season, can join the Rays is unclear, though it’s possible he could be ready by the road trip that starts Wednesday in Atlanta.

Manager Kevin Cash said it was just good for Meadows, who participated in only the first workout of Spring 2.0 on July 3, to be back on the field.

Related: Brandon Lowe leads Rays to first win with clutch triple

“Obviously, it is very hot down there, but that will be good for him to get out, get outside in the elements and get his cardio up, and certainly get his timing at the plate. We’ll start that buildup,” Cash said Saturday.

“I don’t have a timeframe when he’ll be back, whether it’s three days, two weeks, I really have no idea. It’s too early to tell. But he seemed to be in pretty good spirits that he’s able to be around some guys he’s familiar with and champing at the bit to get back on our roster.”

Meadows, who said recently that he was initially fatigued by the virus but then had only mild symptoms, is on the injured list. He can come off any time since his assignment was for COVID-19 reasons. The Rays will have to create space on the 40-man roster when he does.

Related: Why expanded playoffs are not necessarily a good thing for Rays

Meadows is one of five Rays known to have tested positive for the coronavirus. First baseman/DH Jose Martinez and pitchers Yonny Chirinos and Tyler Glasnow have returned, and outfielder Randy Arozarena is on the minor-league injured list. Pitcher Brendan McKay has not been seen at workouts since July 6; the team has not given a reason why.

Surreal, distanced, emotional

Even given the circumstances, Ryan Thompson’s big-league debut Friday was still a huge deal. “That was amazing,” he said a day after his outing against the Blue Jays. “It was just surreal, to be honest. Even though it was different, considering there were no fans and this season has been a little bit awkward in itself, but it was everything I ever dreamed of, and more.” Plus he got to share it, kind of, with his father, Edwin, who flew from Portland, Ore., to Tampa on Thursday just to be close to the action, even though he couldn’t enter the stadium or get too close to his son due to coronavirus precautions. “He was watching the game at a bar close by and he was just having the time of his life,” Thompson said. “After the game we met up in a parking lot, like six parking spots away, just being as careful as we possibly could. But it was, you know, my dad, man. He’s just elated, and he’s been right by my side since Day 1, and I couldn’t not see him. Just going to the parking lot and just seeing him face to face was everything.‘'

Anderson still undefeated as Ray

Rays pitcher Nick Anderson threw 1 1/3 scoreless innings in relief and earned the win Saturday. The reliever improved to 4-0 in his career with Tampa Bay since being acquired during last season from the Marlins, where he was 2-4 in his rookie year. Saturday’s outing was Anderson’s 24th as a Ray and dropped his ERA below 2.00 with the club.

Quote of the day

“They were like, ‘You know, we can’t be too careful. We know what organization (Astros) you came from.’ It was pretty funny.”

— Pitcher Ryan Thompson, detailing the dugout conversation after shortstop Willy Adames picked up an MLB-approved pack of moistened cleansing wipes Thompson was using Friday as a substitute for licking his fingers; Adames thought it was maybe an illegal pine tar rag.

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Yoshi Tsutsugo, the outfielder from Japan who homered in his big-league debut Friday, was greeted with a familiar sound Saturday as the Rays played tape of the song fans used to sing during his at-bats with Yokohama. … Manager Kevin Cash took advantage of having three catchers on the roster, pinch-running for Michael Perez in the sixth and Mike Zunino in the eighth, both moves leading to runs. … Ji-Man Choi said he was caught “a bit off-guard” batting leadoff, but he settled in and had several good at-bats. … Nick Anderson was summoned for a high-leverage moment in the seventh, and fellow reliever Oliver Drake worked the ninth for the save, the fourth of his career. … The Blue Jays’ Cavan Biggio reached base for a 31st straight game, the longest active streak in the majors.