The Rays could have their first in-season COVID-19 concern, as catcher Kevan Smith was placed on the injured list prior to Saturday’s game after displaying cold-like symptoms Friday, though he had tested negative once already.
Smith experienced what were described as minor symptoms, including being lightheaded/dizzy, and was tested and then sent back to the team hotel in Baltimore, where he remained Saturday. He needs another negative test to be cleared to return and also to fly home with the team after Sunday’s game.
To replace Smith on the active roster, the Rays recalled infielder Daniel Robertson, who was on the trip as a member of the two-man taxi squad.
The Rays have had six players known to test positive for COVID-19 before or during Spring 2.0 camp, the last of whom, pitcher Brendan McKay, returned to action on Friday, throwing live batting practice with the group in Port Charlotte.
McKay had last worked out with the Rays on July 6, the fourth day of summer camp, so he missed 3 ½ weeks. As a result, he likely will need a couple weeks to be ready to pitch in games.
“It’s just going to take some time for him to get back into game-pitching form,” manager Kevin Cash said on a Zoom video call from Baltimore. “He did throw a 20-pitch session (Friday), the reports were good, he did come out of it healthy, so we’re encouraged by that. We’ll start his buildup process kind of like what we’ve done with all the other pitchers that have kind of fallen into that category.”
But while Tyler Glasnow and Yonny Chirinos were ready to compete within a week of returning from their COVID-19 cases and quarantines, McKay will need more time. “I think it’s fair to assume he’s a little further away than they were,” Cash said.
McKay, who was signed as a two-way player, also will be limited to pitching. “Right now we’re going to solely focus on getting him as many reps off the mound as possible,” Cash said. “Lot of odd things have taken place with the season and with him. For him to help us the most this year, it’s going to be coming from a pitching standpoint. We’ll focus on that and probably have discussions with him about how we can re-visit the bat down the road.”
Outfielder Austin Meadows continues to progress in his return from COVID-19 and should be activated sometime on the six-game homestand that starts Tuesday, Cash said, while outfielder Randy Arozarena still needs “some time.” Infielder Jose Martinez was ready opening day.
Rays-Yankees will double up next Saturday
The Rays will be off Thursday and host the Yankees next Saturday in the fourth doubleheader in Tropicana Field history, the first of two seven-inning games (under a just enacted rule) starting at 2:10 p.m. (Fox Sports Sun will show both.) The change was made official Saturday, stemming from Major League Baseball shuffling the schedule to have the Phillies, who were idled for a week as a result of the Marlins’ COVID-19 outbreak, make up four games this week against the Yankees. Those two-game home-and-home series will conclude on Thursday, when the Yankees were supposed to be at the Trop opening the four-game series that now will be played over three days. The Rays were already scheduled to have one of only two scheduled off days in the first 41 of the season on Monday, so the extra day off will allow them to get some welcomed extra rest for their pitchers.
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Zunino considers opt out, but staying for now
With two kids under 16 months, catcher Mike Zunino said he talks daily with wife Alyssa about opting out from playing. “I’d be lying to tell you that doesn’t cross your mind every day when you see positive tests come out,” Zunino said. “It’s one of those things that’s very difficult, (with) two kids. … You see stuff come out, you try to do your own research, try to educate yourself. I have a lot of trust in the team here and the guys here, that we’re doing stuff the right way. But it’s a real conversation Alyssa and I have every day just to see how the dynamic of the league is going. I think we’re in a good spot here and we’ll try to ride this out as long as we can.”
Quote of the day
“Maybe there’s some hits and stuff in the cookies.”
Brandon Lowe, giving wife (and occasional batting practice pitcher) Madison some credit for his hot start, and a plug for her new sweetandlowebakery.com business.
Centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier was out of the lineup with the O’s starting lefty Wade LeBlanc, after having made uncharacteristic mistakes in three straight games (two on catches, one on the bases), but Cash said the only thing wrong is that he’s pressing too much: “No injury issue whatsoever.” … Unhappy with the defensive play, Cash said the infielders would have a work session before the game taking ground balls. The Rays made an AL-most nine errors in their first eight games. … Friday’s game was the first in the Rays’ 23-season history with six or more extra-base hits and no singles. ... Brandon Lowe played college ball at Maryland, and has many friends in the Baltimore area, plus others and relatives who would normally come up from his Virginia hometown. Not this year. “I still get people that send me SnapChat videos and texts, everyone still letting me know they’re watching,” he said. “But it’s definitely different not to have the crowd there.”