The Rays were eager and excited to welcome Ji-Man Choi back from the injured list and into their lineup Monday against the White Sox; he went 0-for-2 with two walks.
But doing so meant saying goodbye — for now — to infielder Mike Brosseau, who was optioned to Triple-A Durham to make room.
“A really, really tough decision,” manager Kevin Cash said in Chicago. “None of us feel good about it because we know how much he means to our club as a player and in the clubhouse.”
Though one of their most versatile defenders, Brosseau had been struggling offensively, hitting .184 with a .595 OPS and 48 strikeouts in 139 plate appearances (34.5 percent), so there was merit to the decision. Plus, they feel Brosseau will benefit from regular playing time at Durham.
Essentially the Rays decided they would be better off keeping a 14th pitcher instead of an extra position player, even though Cash’s flexibility to make late-game moves will be limited.
Though the Rays are confident Choi is over the left groin strain that sidelined him for 12 days, as well as any lingering issues from his spring right knee surgery, to play “pretty consistently,” the lefty swinger is limited to playing just first base. That leaves Yandy Diaz, Brandon Lowe, Taylor Walls and Joey Wendle to cover the other three infield spots, with one available on the three-man bench.
There isn’t much roster flexibility with the pitching staff, either, especially with displaced starter Michael Wacha now in the bullpen, as Jeffrey Springs was probably the most likely candidate to be sent down. But, not counting bulk inning pitcher Josh Fleming, Springs is their only lefty reliever; and they didn’t want to be without one, especially moving next to Seattle, which has a lefty-heavy lineup.
Cash said having the additional pitcher to lighten the load on the others has paid off in keeping other pitchers healthy and not overworked.
Ultimately, Cash said, they did what they felt was best overall. “We’re trying to be really good,” he said.
“We’ve got a lot of guys that are probably deserving of big-league opportunities in Durham right now. And it’s a 26-man roster. So some of those decisions are very challenging, but we’re doing it to make sure that we are the best team as possible now and also have the best depth as possible.”
Chicago manager Tony La Russa and Cash have one obvious connection, two of only six Tampa natives to manage in the majors (also Al Lopez, Lou Piniella, Dave Miley, John Hart). La Russa, the Hall of Famer who went back in the dugout at age 76 for a 35th season of managing, said he has “admired the work” Cash has done, and that the Rays are “for real.”
Cash said he has “ultimate respect” for La Russa and was looking forward to talking with him, as he’d only previously said hello in passing. “There’s a reason he’s in the Hall of Fame,” Cash said. “Pretty spectacular managerial career.”
Turns out they have another connection: Irene La Russa, Tony’s cousin, was Cash’s second-grade teacher at Lake Magdalene Elementary. “She was awesome,” Cash said. “She was one of those teachers who was pretty cool; she’d show up the Little League games where her students were and stuff like that.”
⋅ Randy Arozarena’s 171,462 votes were by far the most of any Rays player but he was eighth among American League outfielders in the first update of the online All-Star balloting, which runs through June 24. Mike Zunino has 91,513 votes, sixth among catchers.
⋅ Pitching prospect Shane Baz was promoted from Double-A Montgomery, where he was 2-4, 2.48 with 49 strikeouts in 32 2/3 innings, to Triple-A Durham, where he will make his first start Wednesday.
⋅ Shane McClanahan starts Tuesday, saying he has addressed the issues that led to back-to-back rough starts, allowing four runs and throwing 79 pitches over 3 1/3 innings June 2, and three runs and 77 pitches over three innings last Wednesday.
⋅ Monday’s game was the Rays’ first against the White Sox since July 21, 2019.
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