PORT CHARLOTTE — The Rays’ depth may be tested right at the start of the season.
Outfielder Brett Phillips will be sidelined into April due to a left hamstring strain, and first baseman Ji-Man Choi said Monday he didn’t know if his sore right knee would be improved in time for the April 1 opener at Miami.
The Rays were hoping for better news on Phillips, the Seminole native and World Series Game 4 star, after he felt something while running the bases during Sunday’s game.
A Monday MRI showed a Grade 1 strain, which is expected to sideline him for three-four weeks.
“Unfortunate,” manager Kevin Cash said. “He’ll be back, and he’ll play a big role for us. He’s swinging the bat pretty well. Just a good guy to have on a winning team. He does a lot of things that can help you win. Plays great defense. We know he can come up with some timely hits. So we’ll rehab him, get him back as quick as possible.”
Choi has reported tightness in his knee twice during camp and was shut down from baseball activities for seven-10 days after an MRI on Friday showed inflammation.
“Second time around, I think we’re a bit more cautious,” Choi said via team interpreter Steve Nam. “I think it’s too early to tell (about opening day). I don’t think it’s the right time to kind of think ahead to the start of the season. What I can focus on is right now getting the treatment and reassess after the 10 days.”
The Rays went into camp with what seemed like one too many position players for a 26-man roster, especially with six outfielders. But Yoshi Tsutsugo, who already was getting a look at first base, may get more regular duty there if Choi is out.
Game details: Rays 3, Red Sox 2
Shane McClanahan was most dazzling in a parade of talented young pitchers, striking out Boston’s J.D. Martinez, Hunter Renfroe and Michael Chavis with 97-mph-and-up fastballs, plus a combination of sliders, curveballs and change-ups. McClanahan has made three one-inning appearances, but that is part of a planned slow buildup. He said, and Cash confirmed, he will be used as a starter. … Joe Ryan, who started, and Josh Fleming, who worked two innings, were also impressive and are on a similar plan. “They’ve got a chance to be pretty special,” Cash said of the group. … Brendan McKay made his first spring appearance as a hitter, walking in the seventh. Rehab from shoulder surgery has limited his pitching. … Tristan Gray, continuing his hot spring, singled to lead off the sixth and scored the go-ahead run as the Rays (5-9) hung on for a 3-2 win to halt a five-game skid. ... Kevin Kiermaier had two doubles. … Randy Arozarena doubled in the first and was singled home by Brandon Lowe.