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Rays don’t expect knee soreness to keep Ji-Man Choi out

Rays notes | The first baseman left Monday’s game but should be fine. Also, the team will enjoy relaxed COVID-19 protocols.
The Rays' Ji-Man Choi watches a ball during his at-bat in the third inning against the Blue Jays at TD Ballpark in Dunedin on Monday.
The Rays' Ji-Man Choi watches a ball during his at-bat in the third inning against the Blue Jays at TD Ballpark in Dunedin on Monday. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]
Published May 25, 2021|Updated May 25, 2021

DUNEDIN — Ji-Man Choi leaving Monday’s game after four innings with soreness in his surgically repaired right knee could have taken some luster off the Rays’ 11th straight win.

But they seem confident he won’t miss much time.

“I do not think he will,” manager Kevin Cash said. “His knee just started to bother him a little bit. I think there was a throw somewhere earlier in the game that just grabbed him and it got a little sore.

“At that point in the game, (leading 5-1), I’m sitting there saying, ‘Okay, let’s get him off his feet.’ I’m not sure if we make that decision in a tighter situation.”

Choi has been one of the Rays’ top offensive producers since returning from the injured list May 15, with hits in each of his first seven starts, and two walks on Monday. He is hitting .400 with a .531 on-base percentage.

Protocols to be relaxed

The Rays reached fully vaccinated status for 85 percent of their players, coaches and close-contact staff, meaning as of Tuesday they can relax some coronavirus protocols.

“We’re all looking forward to it,” Cash said. “The guys have done just a tremendous job of following protocols, guidelines that have been put in place.”

Under an agreement between the league and the union, the Rays join 14 other teams in gaining more freedoms at home and on the road.

Changes include discontinuing requirements to wear masks in the dugout and the bullpen, reducing the frequency of COVID-19 testing, being allowed to eat in restaurants (indoor and outdoor) and resuming shared clubhouse activities, such as playing video games.

“We’ve gone about the proper steps to get into this position where we can get to that 85 percent mark and get back to some normalcy,” pitcher Rich Hill said.

Restrictions are also relaxed at Tropicana Field for fans starting Tuesday, as masks are no longer required for anyone considered fully vaccinated. Fans who are not are still asked to wear masks.

Short-armed

Rays manager Kevin Cash talks with relief pitcher Collin McHugh during Monday's game.
Rays manager Kevin Cash talks with relief pitcher Collin McHugh during Monday's game. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]

After a heavy week of use, the Rays wanted to rest as many relievers as they could Monday. They started the game looking for Ryan Yarbrough to go deep, and Cash said he did “really, really well” to get them through six innings with a lead, given the way the ball was flying.

That left the Rays with three innings to cover, then two more as the game was extended. Between Collin McHugh (1 2/3 innings), Ryan Thompson (one-third), Jeffrey Springs (two innings) and Andrew Kittredge (one), they got it done. The next option was to use a starter. “So appreciative of their efforts, their work,” Cash said. “Kitt, he bounces back so well. I think all those guys, they really pitched well. They were exhausted, but they competed and helped us get a win.”

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Number of the day

95 Runs scored by the Rays during their 11-game win streak

Miscellany

⋅ The seven runs the Rays scored in the 11th were their most in any extra inning in franchise history and matched their high this season for any inning.

⋅ In going 3-0 in Baltimore and 4-0 in Dunedin, the Rays swept a multi-series road trip for the second time (also in 2014 on a five-game jaunt to Minnesota and St. Louis).

⋅ Sunday’s game was the first in franchise history with a game-tying and go-ahead bases-loaded walk in the ninth inning.

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