ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays welcomed new addition Nelson Cruz to Tropicana Field on Tuesday and welcomed back outfielder Manuel Margot from the injured list.
Margot was batting leadoff and starting in rightfield for Tuesday night’s game against the Yankees.
Margot missed 15 games with a left hamstring strain, and while the Rays did okay without him, going 11-4, they certainly missed his right-handed hitting, speed and solid play across the outfield.
“Manny was having just a really solid season for us. He does so many things on both sides of the ball,” manager Kevin Cash said. “Big at bats. In big situations it seems like he comes through, puts the ball in play. Puts pressure on the defense. And he’s played as good a defense of anybody on our field this season.”
In 76 games, Margot hit .252 with nine homers, 44 RBIs, nine steals and a .700 OPS. He is one of the Rays’ more productive hitters against lefty pitchers with a .267 average and .338 on-base percentage as part of a .727 OPS.
With the Rays acquiring right-handed hitting designated hitter Nelson Cruz on Thursday, Margot’s role may change slightly in that he may get some more starts in centerfield against left-handers.
That’s because lefty swinger Austin Meadows, who had been the primary DH, will be playing leftfield more, including against some lefties. That would allow the Rays to have right-handed hitting Randy Arozarena in rightfield and use Margot over lefty-hitting Kevin Kiermaier or Brett Phillips in center.
Margot played in three rehab games for Triple-A Durham, going 4-for-14, stealing a base and playing in the field with no issues.
“I feel good, thank God,” he said via team interpreter Manny Navarro. “The rehab went well, and I feel great.”
The Rays sent down pitcher Sean Poppen on Monday to make room on the 26-man roster for Margot, though they essentially cleared space on Saturday by optioning rookie shortstop Taylor Walls back to Triple-A.
Also Monday, Cash said:
• Reliever Nick Anderson, out since spring with an elbow sprain, will move his rehab to Durham after a second solid outing for the Florida Complex League team and is slated to pitch Thursday.
• Reliever Ryan Thompson, out since late June with shoulder inflammation, was “finally making some good strides.”
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