The Rays don’t think the soreness in the left rib cage area that forced catcher Francisco Mejia out of the starting lineup Friday is a big problem.
But an hour or so after manager Kevin Cash said Mejia could come off the bench if Mike Zunino had to leave the game, the Rays added some protection by activating Kevan Smith off the taxi squad.
That could have been a sign that Mejia’s condition was worse, but Cash said after the game that was not the case. Instead it was simply an opportunistic move as pitcher Ryan Yarbrough, who isn’t slated to work in the weekend series, was placed on the COVID-19 injured list due to vaccine side effects, creating spots on the 26- and 40-man roster to add Smith, who caught the final two innings.
Mejia, acquired from San Diego in the Blake Snell trade, has been one of the Rays’ few consistent offensive performers, hitting .300 with a .348 on-base percentage, one homer, six doubles and six RBIs.
“Kind of came out of nowhere,” Cash said. “I really don’t think it’s too big of an issue right now. I know they can be tricky. They can kind of creep up on you and all of a sudden they don’t bother you at all, and then you take a couple swings and it really changes location in that area and aggravates the heck out of you. But we’re going to try to avoid that.”
Mejia got treatment during Friday’s game, and how he feels Saturday may be key in determining if he needs to go on the 10-day injured list. If he is not ready to play and Yarbrough is still ill, having Smith available would help. That could keep Zunino from having to start a day game after a night game and play potentially four straight games.
The Rays announced the issue as discomfort in the intercostal rather than the potentially more concerning oblique. Cash didn’t draw much distinction: “As far as I’m concerned they’re the same thing so I could care less — his side’s bothering him.”
McHugh on target
Reliever Collin McHugh said the 16 days he spent on the injured list dealing with a lower back strain gave him a chance to fine tune his pitching coming out of spring training after sitting out 2020. That showed Thursday as he worked two perfect innings as the opener, striking out 5 of 6 on 23 pitches. “Everything was just a little sharper,” McHugh said. “An uptick in velocity just a little bit.” McHugh said he usually figures he needs a day off for each inning pitched, so he should be available Sunday.
A first for Tyler Glasnow
Top Rays starter Tyler Glasnow has pitched in 24 stadiums during parts of six seasons in the majors, but Saturday will be his first game at the Oakland Coliseum, where depth perception can be an issue. Glasnow said he’s not the type to go stand on the mound Friday to get a preview. As long it’s still 60 feet, 6 inches from the plate, he won’t even notice. “Most of the time when there’s an umpire behind there and hitters, for me a lot of the views just look the same,” he said. “I’m just trying to lock in on the catcher.”
⋅ First baseman Ji-Man Choi (knee) was off Friday after going 1-for-10 with one walk and four strikeouts in the first three games of his rehab assignment with Triple-A Durham.
⋅ Josh Lowe and Kevin Padlo had two homers each as the Bulls improved to 4-0. Drew Strotman allowed one hit over five innings in his first Triple-A start.
⋅ The four-game sweep in Anaheim completed Thursday was the 17th in Rays franchise history, seventh on the road.
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