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The secret to Randy Arozarena’s rise with Rays? Chicken and rice

Rays notebook | Rookie outfielder said COVID-19 quarantine led him to improve his diet, exercise more and add 15 pounds of muscle.
The Rays' Randy Arozarena celebrates his solo home run off Miami Marlins starting pitcher Trevor Rogers during the first inning Sunday's game at Tropicana Field.
The Rays' Randy Arozarena celebrates his solo home run off Miami Marlins starting pitcher Trevor Rogers during the first inning Sunday's game at Tropicana Field. [ CHRIS O'MEARA | AP ]
Published Sep. 9, 2020
Updated Sep. 9, 2020

Stuck in an apartment in St. Petersburg by himself for a month waiting to get over his case of COVID-19 and get the requisite negative tests to rejoin his teammates, new Rays outfielder Randy Arozarena figured he would make the best of it.

He taught himself to cook, improving his usual diet with a healthy version of chicken and rice, and stuck to a regular exercise routine, including 300 pushups a day, putting on about 15 pounds of muscle.

“I was eating healthy and I was controlling what I was eating,” Arozarena, a Cuban native, said Tuesday from Washington via team translator Manny Navarro. “Aside from gaining mass, I also gained strength. I feel good playing at this weight (197 pounds over a 5-foot, 11-inch frame).”

He certainly has been playing well, hitting his way into Tuesday’s lineup — and against Nats right-hander Anibal Sanchez at that — by swatting four homers in his first seven games. He was 8-for-17 with three walks since his Aug. 30 call-up, then 0-for-3 Tuesday.

“He’s tough to get out — get out of the lineup and get out when he’s hitting,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “We just want to see. We’ve got an opportunity to find out some things about a lot of guys. And Randy, in fairness, is probably right at the top of the list. We’ve already seen what he can do, and it’s our job as a staff, myself, to just find ways to keep everybody fresh and find that balance between fresh and consistency for everybody, for everything.”

Arozarena, 25, is appreciative of the opportunity, having spent the last month working his way back into baseball shape at the Port Charlotte camp.

“I’m feeling happy and really excited about the results that I’ve been getting,” he said. “All the hard work that I’ve been putting in on and off the field is definitely paying off.”

Arozarena made his big-league debut last year with the Cardinals, hitting .300 in limited opportunity (6-for-20) with one home run after working his way up from Double-A Springfield and Triple-A Memphis.

The Rays weren’t the only ones who noticed him.

“I liked him when he was in St. Louis,” Nationals manager Davey Martinez said. “He’s got an unbelievably quick bat. We talked about it, said, ‘Hey, don’t try to sneak a fastball by him, because his bat is quick.’ He’s a good player. I think he’s going to be fantastic.”

Arozarena already has made some Rays history, their first player to hit four home runs in his first 16 at-bats of a season, per Stats LLC. Four players had hit three, most recently Steven Souza Jr. in 2016. Arozarena is also the first to go deep four times in his first 16 at-bats with the Rays. In-season acquisitions Chris Gomez and Lucas Duda each hit three.

Austin’s power?

Austin Meadows said he feels fine physically, that his overall lack of offensive production this season was not related to the COVID-19 case that sidelined him through most of Spring 2.0 and the first 10 games of the season. An 0-for-4 Tuesday extended his latest skid to 0-for-17, and 2-for-29, and dropped his average to .202.

“I feel good,” Meadows, the Rays' 2019 co-team MVP, said before the game. "I feel like I’m coming along. Baseball is a crazy game. You can get in these little funks and then you can also go through a stretch that you’re kind of unconscious and hitting everything that you see.

“I do feel good. I feel like I’m seeing the ball well. … I feel like I’m swinging at better pitches in my zone. That fastball that I almost hit out off (Max) Scherzer felt really good, just missed it. Trying to take as many positives as I can and continue to move forward.”

White Sox infielder Yoan Moncada recently said he hasn’t had his usual energy and strength since his case of COVID-19.

"The virus hits people differently,'' Meadows said. “Physically, I feel fine. Obviously, I wasn’t fine when I had the virus, but afterwards I feel I responded well to it. I haven’t had any issues or anything like that, any post-effects. So I do feel good. That’s unfortunate for him. Hopefully, he’s able to come out of it soon.”

Quote of the day

"Honestly, I don’t know who would win.''

Arozarena, on the potential for a race with outfield mates Kevin Kiermaier and Manuel Margot

Miscellany

Brandon Lowe, who went into play 1-for-his-last-25, was 1-for-4 with three strikeouts. .... With no setbacks, reliever Oliver Drake (biceps) is on track to be activated this weekend, Cash said. He has been out since Aug. 9, pitching in only five games. … The loss ended the Rays streak of 10 consecutive unbeaten series (8-0-2). … Wednesday is the Rays' second of three off days in a 12-day span, and four in 22. ... Cash and Martinez squared off as two of six former Rays players to become managers, joining Rocco Baldelli (Twins), Mickey Callaway (Mets), Ozzie Guillen (White Sox, Marlins) and Gabe Kapler (Phillies, Giants).