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Wander Franco’s arrival means rest, job shares for Rays infielders

Rays notes | Manager Kevin Cash says the plan will be to keep all infielders involved with rotating scheduling.
Rays infielder Wander Franco at practice ahead of his MLB debut at Tropicana Field on Tuesday.
Rays infielder Wander Franco at practice ahead of his MLB debut at Tropicana Field on Tuesday. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]
Published Jun. 23
Updated Jun. 23

ST. PETERSBURG — Adding top prospect Wander Franco to the roster and on most days the lineup means decreasing playing time for the other Rays infielders.

Rays manager Kevin Cash is confident it will work out, saying they will benefit from getting more rest for Ji-Man Choi, Yandy Diaz, Brandon Lowe, Taylor Walls and Joey Wendle, as well as better matchups.

“(Franco) is going to play a lot. They’re all going to continue to play a lot,” Cash said. “It’s going to be up to myself and our staff to get out in front of some of the conversations. We’ve always valued ... the rest (for) guys, and I think that we can balance that really well with Wander’s addition.

“He’s going to go right into that mix where ideally, they’re playing five out of six (games), six out of seven. A left-handed or right-handed pitcher will change that a little bit. But if we’re running straight out for a week, we’d like to avoid multiple days off for guys, but know that that’s probably going to happen.

“It’ll just be on us, on myself, to communicate with the guys, it’s not a demotion, it’s a day off, or not starting; be ready to help us win later in the game.”

The versatility of the players helps, Cash said.

Franco, who started at third Tuesday in his debut, will also play shortstop and eventually second. Wendle can play second, short and third. Lowe can play second and the outfield, and has done some work at first and third. Diaz plays first at third. Walls is likely to be at short when he plays; Choi is limited to first. Plus, Franco and Walls are switch-hitters.

Downside Hill

Rich Hill starts for the Rays on Wednesday, coming off back-to-back rough outings, giving up four runs in each and not getting past five innings after allowing two or fewer runs in his previous eight starts.

Hill said he feels fine, that the issue isn’t anything physical or mechanical, or from being old. “Might as well cut everybody off at the pass before we mention that 41 gets in the way,” he said.

He did suggest a change in repertoire, with a plan to throw more changeups, a pitch he introduced for the first time this season in May. “I think it will be something where we’ll see as far as the creativity and where we go with the game,” he said.

Cash said Hill has been mostly good, then hurt by “one or two pitches” that “right at the last second, it’s kind of like the other team makes an approach and ambushes a pitch with a guy on base and knocks it out of the ballpark.”

Miscellany

With initial online voting to determine the finalists ending Thursday, outfielder Randy Arozarena is the top vote-getter among the Rays at 358,742, but just outside the top nine that advances to the next round. No other Ray is close to the top three at the other positions; Mike Zunino’s 153,087 are the next most for a Ray and he ranks eighth.

⋅ Having already created space for Franco on the 26-man active roster by optioning reliever Drew Rasmussen to Triple-A, the Rays made room on the 40-man roster by designating for assignment infielder/outfielder Wyatt Mathisen.

⋅ The Rays are offering $5 off lower reserved tickets and $5 Bud and Bud Lite beers for the Red Sox series. Also, the Tropicana Field touch tank reopened.

⋅ Sox outfielder Hunter Renfroe, who spent 2020 with the Rays, received his American League championship ring in a brief on-field huddle with Cash during batting practice.

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