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Rays take on Red Sox with Wander Franco hitting cleanup

Michael Wacha will be on mound for team’s first nine-inning game of spring.
Tampa Bay Rays Wander Franco #5 prepares to throw the ball during a spring training game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Atlanta Braves at Charlotte Sports Park Sunday, Feb. 28, 2021 in Port Charlotte. A limited amount of fans were allowed entry and were required to take a temperature check at the gate, maintain social distance and face covering at all times when possible.
Tampa Bay Rays Wander Franco #5 prepares to throw the ball during a spring training game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Atlanta Braves at Charlotte Sports Park Sunday, Feb. 28, 2021 in Port Charlotte. A limited amount of fans were allowed entry and were required to take a temperature check at the gate, maintain social distance and face covering at all times when possible. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]
Published Mar. 2
Updated Mar. 2

The Rays head south to play the Red Sox today, with consensus top prospect Wander Franco in the lineup for the game that will be nationally televised by ESPN with a 1:05 first pitch.

Franco will be the DH today, and is slated to get a start at shortstop on Wednesday, when the Rays host the Pirates in a game to be shown on Fox Sports Sun.

Franco, who turned 20 Monday, started a game for the Rays last spring when he was an early reporting minor-leaguer. This year he is an invitee to big-league camp, and Cash said they will try to give him, as well as the others, as much opportunity as they can while getting the big-leaguers ready.

Other notes from pre-game interviews:

* Veteran Michael Wacha, an early off-season free agent acquisition, will make his first Rays start today, with David Hess, Ryan Thompson, Ryan Sherriff, Kenny Rosenberg, Louis Head and Yacksel Rios also slated to pitch.

* With teams required to play nine innings for national TV games, and pitching limited as they don’t want to push them early, Cash said he texted with Sox manager Alex Cora about cutting some innings short regardless of how many outs if an individual pitcher throws more than 20, which is allowed under the spring rules.

* Cash said Joey Wendle, who was hit by a pitch on the helmet and received facial bruising on Monday, was doing okay and is slated to return to the lineup on Wednesday.

* Ji-Man Choi, who missed a workout day due to right knee soreness, is slated to make his spring debut on Wednesday as the DH. Yoshi Tsustugo, who played third base and leftfield for the Rays in 2020, will get his first look at first base. He said he played there some in Japan.

* Cash declined to respond to the joking jabs by Twins manager, and good friend, Rocco Baldelli, after asking him to shorten Monday’s game as the Rays were low on pitching: “I’m really fond of Rocco,’' Cash said.

* Cash said they have been pleased thus far with the catching work of Francisco Mejia, acquired from San Diego in the Blake Snell trade.

* One of the reasons Randy Arozarena is playing leftfield today is to get him familiar with the high Jet Blue Park wall, which is similar to the Fenway Park Green Monster.

* Lefty reliever Cody Reed said the finger issue that cut short his 2020 season is resolved. He had some weakness/numbness in his hand and fingers after being acquired from the Reds, which made gripping the ball an issue. He said it could be a mild form of thoracic outlet syndrome, but that Botox injections helped. “I feel fine now,’' he said.

Here is the Rays lineup:

Adames ss

Mejia c

Arozarena lf

Franco dh

Margot rf

Phillips cf

Walls 2b

Padlo 3b

Kelly 1b

Wacha p

And here is the Red Sox lineup, with lefty Martin Perez starting and St. Pete native Ryan Weber among those slated to pitch:

Hernández SS,

Duran CF,

Martinez DH,

Devers 3B,

Renfroe RF,

Chavis 1B,

Muñoz LF,

Wong C,

Araúz 2B,

Pérez LHP.