The Rays didn’t waste any time launching the Nelson Cruz era, putting their prized new acquisition right into tonight’s lineup against the Indians. He will bat third as the designated hitter.
The first glimpse of the impact of adding Cruz, acquired in trade from Minnesota Thursday, is that Austin Meadows, who has been their primary DH, is starting in leftfield, with Randy Arozarena in right. The Rays have Kevin Kiermaier in center, though when Manuel Margot comes off the injured list next week, they will have more of a jam, with Brett Phillips also in the mix.
Cash said they will work to develop a rotation among the outfielders and will be aggressive in bringing in the better defenders if they don’t start.
Cruz got the No. 23 he likes to wear, as pitching coach Kyle Snyder switched to No. 44.
Catcher Mike Zunino is back in the lineup for the first time since leaving Monday’s game with a left hip flexor, though he did pinch-hit Wednesday.
Josh Fleming is starting, having pitched well against the Indians July 7 in a short outing, but inconsistent overall. Right-hander Zach Plesac is starting for the Indians.
The Rays earlier Friday traded veteran lefty starter Rich Hill to the Mets for reliever Tommy Hunter, who is on the injured list with a back issue that sidelined him in late May, and minor-league catcher Matt Dyer. With Hill gone, they plan a bullpen day for Saturday, when Hill was to start.
The Rays did call up right-hander Louis Head to join the bullpen for tonight.
Here is the Rays lineup:
And for the Indians, who earlier Friday announced that once the season ends they will become the Guardians:
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