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Rays ‘comfortable’ on road, in Atlanta clubhouse last used by Marlins

After nearly a month at home, team says traveling under coronavirus precautions worked out well, at least for day one.

The Rays felt okay about their first day on the road amid the coronavirus pandemic, which included walking into the same visiting clubhouse in Atlanta last used by the COVID-19-stricken Marlins.

“I feel like everyone is extremely comfortable here,” pitcher Ryan Yarbrough said on a Zoom video call from Atlanta. “I think we know they’re doing everything they can to make it as safe as possible for us, and I feel like as a player, as a person, that’s all you really can ask for.”

Plus, infielder Joey Wendle said, “We’ve been told this place has been cleaned inside and out, and I trust that to be the case.”

The Rays made the hour-long flight to Atlanta on Wednesday morning, departing from their usual routine of traveling after the previous day’s game to eliminate an extra night in a hotel.

The 65 or so members of the traveling party wore masks on the plane and buses to the hotel and ballpark, sat apart and stayed in their seats. They said they felt comfortable with the protocols and precautions in place, including being “strongly encouraged” to not leave the hotel during the five-day trip to Atlanta and Baltimore except to go to the stadium.

“Impressed with the way everything was handled, really smoothly,” manager Kevin Cash said. “The masks were worn. Guys stayed in their seats. They’ve done a really good job. We’ve just got to keep it up, understand what’s at stake and keep going.”

The Rays, understandably, had concerns about going on the road after spending three weeks of training camp and the first five days of the season at Tropicana Field. Especially traveling to Atlanta, where the massive outbreak that has paused the Marlins’ season may have started.

“The Braves, they’re a first-class organization; trust everything that they’re doing to keep themselves and our players, our organization, safe,” Cash said. “Walking into this clubhouse, this staff here has done a tremendous job, spaced out, everything is up to speed with protocol, so very encouraged.”

Ji-Man Choi still sore

First baseman Ji-Man Choi was “pretty sore” and out of the lineup Wednesday after jamming his right shoulder making a diving play Tuesday and leaving the game. It doesn’t seem the Rays expect him to be out long, however, as Cash said Choi would undergo treatment before and during the game, with the potential to be available as a pinch-hitter if needed.

Rays may double up with Yankees

The Rays may be impacted by the postponements and re-scheduling of the Marlins and Phillies games due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Yankees manager Aaron Boone said they are now expecting to play next Thursday in Philadelphia, when they were supposed to be at Tropicana Field opening a four-game series. The plan under discussion would be to play the four Rays-Yankees games over three days, with a doubleheader on Saturday, August 8.

Austin Meadows in ‘rushed mode'

Outfielder Austin Meadows likely won’t be ready to join the Rays until sometime next week as he works his way back into form after missing all but the first Spring 2.0 workout and three weeks total to a case of COVID-19.

Cash said all is “going well” as Meadows gets at-bats in something of “a rushed mode” in simulated games since joining the group at the alternate training site in Port Charlotte on Saturday. But he needs time to get built up. “I think sometime during the next homestand is the most realistic,” Cash said.

Outfielder Randy Arozarena, who missed the whole three-week camp due to his case of COVID-19, was cleared to start workouts on Wednesday in Port Charlotte. Cash said he will need “a little while” to get up to speed.

Catcher/outfielder Brett Sullivan, who participated in the original spring training after playing the last 2 ½ seasons at Double-A Montgomery, was added to the 60-man player pool. He joined the workouts, teaming with previously added Rene Pinto to give the Rays more depth to work with the pitchers in Port Charlotte, and, if needed, in the majors.

Miscellany

Lefty Ryan Yarbrough, who worked 5-1/3 scoreless innings Saturday, said his only focus going into Thursday’s start is “to go as deep in the ballgame as I can.” … Lefty Anthony Banda and infielder Daniel Robertson are on the trip as members of the taxi squad, allowing them to work out pre-game and be on-hand replacements if any teammates are injured or ill.. … Jose Martinez has made four starts at DH as the Rays have used Yandy Diaz at first base twice. But Cash said Martinez will keep working at first with infield coach Rodney Linares and will get some time there. … The Braves activated their top two catchers, ex-Ray Travis d’Arnaud and Tyler Flowers, from the injured list, as well as outfielder Scott Schebler. Catchers Alex Jackson and William Contreras and righty Chad Sobotka were optioned.

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