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Rays pitcher Charlie Morton: ‘I’m not worried about missing much time'

After leaving Sunday's game against the Yankees with shoulder tightness and discomfort, the veteran starter is optimistic his injury will be "very manageable.''
Rays starter Charlie Morton talks with catcher Mike Zunino on the mound during the first inning against the New York Yankees on Sunday, Aug. 9, 2020.
Rays starter Charlie Morton talks with catcher Mike Zunino on the mound during the first inning against the New York Yankees on Sunday, Aug. 9, 2020. [ STEVE NESIUS | AP ]
Published Aug. 10, 2020

ST. PETERSBURG — Charlie Morton isn’t sure exactly what’s wrong with his right shoulder, but he doesn’t feel it will keep him sidelined too long.

Morton told the Rays he felt tightness in the deltoid area of his pitching shoulder during the second inning. When it didn’t loosen up as he started the third, he was taken out of Sunday’s game against the Yankees.

“I think the fortunate thing was that it really didn’t progress past anything that was intolerable,’' he said. “It was just kind of some discomfort back there and tightness.’'

The Rays announced a diagnosis of inflammation, pending further medical evaluation. Given their cautious nature with pitchers, especially their 36-year-old ace, some rest during a short stint on the injured list would seem a reasonable option.

“We’re going to see how it feels here in the next 24 hours,’' Morton said. “On a severity scale, I would say I’m not worried about it, like I’m not worried about missing much time. …

“I really think it’s just going to be just managing the symptoms and how it feels going forward. It’s just the kind of thing where I don’t really know where that’s going to lead here in the next three, four, five days. It’s just going to be the kind of thing where I’m just going to have to be honest with my symptoms. …

“The hope being it just doesn’t become anything that’s an issue here in the coming weeks and months. But I don’t foresee that at all. I’ve had issues, and I’m pretty confident this is very manageable.’'

Coming off a career-high workload in a spectacular first season with the Rays in 2019, Morton has noted several times how the lead-up to this season — from spring training, through the three-month shutdown, then a three-week Spring 2.0 camp — has impacted his usual build-up, though he has felt healthy. “I’m not going to assign blame on that,’' he said Sunday.

Roster renovations

Before losing Morton, the Rays had already shuffled their roster Sunday to provide more pitching coverage, as reliever Oliver Drake went on the 10-day injured list with right biceps tendinitis.

John Curtiss, a right-hander who pitched previously for the Twins and Angels and impressed during both spring camps, was called up and added to the 40-man roster. Rookie sidearm reliever Ryan Thompson was recalled, having been up and down Saturday as the 29th man for the doubleheader. Both pitched Sunday, with Thompson getting his first win.

To make room, the Rays designated for assignment two veterans: third catcher Kevan Smith and lefty reliever Sean Gilmartin.

Manager Kevin Cash said he hopes both get opportunities to be in the big leagues elsewhere but if not, the Rays would like to have them back in the Port Charlotte camp.

The decision to drop Smith, who was out of options, “was a difficult one,’' Cash said. “He’s a big-league catcher, there’s no doubt about it. He’s a guy that was going to help us, but our pitching got so jammed up we had to make those decisions.’'

The Rays also activated outfielder Manuel Margot, who had been on the bereavement list following the Tuesday death of his father, then moved to the COVID-19 injured list while he underwent testing after going to his native Dominican Republic to attend to family matters.

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Cash also said it was “likely” that reliever Jose Alvarado would be activated Monday from the paternity list.

Number of the day

26 hours, 9 minutes

Time in which the Rays and Yankees played three games, covering 23 innings, starting with Saturday’s doubleheader.

Miscellany

The Rays left after the game for a seasonlong 11-day, 10-game, three-city road trip to Boston, Buffalo, N.Y. (temporary home of the Blue Jays) and New York City. … Centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier was unavailable Sunday due to a severe allergic reaction but is expected to be fine for Monday’s game against the Red Sox. … Sunday’s game was just the fourth in 23 seasons that the Rays beat the Yankees after trailing by three or more runs from the seventh inning on, per Stats LLC. … The five-man taxi squad for the road trip includes pitchers Anthony Banda and Aaron Slegers, infielder Daniel Robertson, infielder/outfielder Brian O’Grady and catcher Ronaldo Hernandez, the 22-year-old prospect who has not played above Class A but for now is the third catcher.