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Rays get good news on Mike Zunino, expect Wednesday return

The All-Star catcher who left Monday’s game with left hip tightness won’t need to go on the injured list.
While the Rays would prefer to give him the night off, Mike Zunino will be available if needed, Kevin Cash said, to play in tonight's game against the Orioles, which will be started by Francisco Mejia.
While the Rays would prefer to give him the night off, Mike Zunino will be available if needed, Kevin Cash said, to play in tonight's game against the Orioles, which will be started by Francisco Mejia. [ ARIELLE BADER | Times ]
Published Jul. 20
Updated Jul. 21

ST. PETERSBURG — Mike Zunino woke up Tuesday feeling better.

Which meant Rays manager Kevin Cash had a better start to his day.

Zunino, their All-Star catcher, left Monday’s game after three innings due to left hip flexor tightness.

But based on his improvement during the rest of the night and his morning report, the Rays felt confident Tuesday he was not seriously hurt and wouldn’t need to go on the injured list or be out long enough that they should call up a third catcher.

Zunino will even be available if needed, Cash said, to play in Tuesday night’s game against the Orioles, which will be started by Francisco Mejia.

“If he wasn’t available, we would have made a (roster) move,” Cash said. “We would like to avoid him. Give him (Tuesday) off, and then if he’s good we’ll catch him (Wednesday).

“No urgency. (With) Frankie, we’re fortunate that we’ve got two guys that can go back there and do the job. And just hope that Z continues to improve. He woke up feeling better (Tuesday). … So hopefully, it just continues to go in the right direction.”

Cash said he wasn’t that concerned, given that Zunino, who first noticed the tightness during his second inning at-bat, said he could have kept playing Monday and was already feeling better after receiving some initial treatment.

“Talking to Z after the game, after the postgame (interviews), he was pretty confident it was minor,” Cash said. “And that was a little bit of treatment, he felt fine, even by the end of the game.”

Had the Rays needed to call up a catcher, they would have had to create space on the 40-man roster and then choose between Triple-A options Joe Odom, who was with them briefly early in the season and had previous big-league time with Seattle; Rene Pinto, who was recently promoted from Double-A Montgomery; and Brett Sullivan, who also plays leftfield.

When Mike Brosseau was on the active roster, he was considered the “emergency” catcher if the Rays’ top two were sidelined during a game. With Brosseau currently on the injured list, Cash said he didn’t know who they would turn to.

“I haven’t put one thought (into it),” Cash said. “Probably don’t want my mind to go there.”

Those choices could be interesting. First baseman Ji-Man Choi has some previous catching experience, and reliever Pete Fairbanks said he did also.

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