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Rays set to place Ji-Man Choi on injured list, get Nelson Cruz back

Cruz was placed on the COVID-19-related injured list but tested negative. Choi is sidelined by left hamstring tightness.
Rays first baseman Ji-Man Choi is dealing with left hamstring tightness again and is expected to miss at least two weeks.
Rays first baseman Ji-Man Choi is dealing with left hamstring tightness again and is expected to miss at least two weeks. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]
Published Aug. 23
Updated Aug. 23

The Rays are expected to have Ji-Man Choi on the injured list and Nelson Cruz back from the COVID-19-related injured list — and possibly at first base — when they face the Phillies Tuesday night in Philadelphia.

Choi, their left-handed-hitting first baseman, exited Sunday’s game with a recurrence of the left hamstring tightness that previously had been an issue. He will get a chance to rest the leg now with the hope he can resume playing in about two weeks.

The Rays, at least initially, will replace Choi by activating Cruz, who was placed on the COVID list and scratched from the lineup Sunday. Cruz, who was vaccinated while with the Twins before the July 22 trade, tested negative and is cleared to rejoin the team.

With the Rays facing a lefty starter (Ranger Suarez) on Tuesday and playing with no designated hitter under National League rules, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Cruz in the lineup at first base. Yandy Diaz, a right-handed hitter, will assume the bulk of the work at first in Choi’s absence, though lefty swinger Brandon Lowe also could get some time there.

This will be the third time this season Choi has been on the injured list. He missed the first 40 games following spring right knee surgery and then nine in June due to a left groin strain. He is hitting .250 overall with nine homers, 38 RBIs and a .799 OPS and had hits in seven of his last eight games.

Cruz, 41, has been taking ground balls at first base but has never played there in a major- or minor-league regular season game. He basically has been a full-time DH since 2017, playing five games in the outfield that season for Seattle and four the next, and has not been in the field since.

With no DH, the Rays, as currently set up, will have a four-man bench for the games against the Phillies. If they wanted to cut back to 13 pitchers and add a position player, middle infielder Taylor Walls would be a likely candidate. Mike Brosseau, who can play first base, was sent down most recently Aug. 17 and thus isn’t eligible to be recalled until Friday (unless he would replace Choi).

Archer slated to keep pitching

As of now, the Rays are expecting Chris Archer to stay on the active roster and take his next turn in the rotation on Sunday. But that could change depending on the soreness in his left hip, which forced him out of Sunday’s game after two innings.

Archer was off to a good start in his first appearance since an April 10 forearm injury, striking out three in the first inning and four overall, allowing one hit and one walk while throwing 24 of 41 pitches for strikes.

He received treatment and was seen by a doctor at Tropicana Field and said after the game he already was feeling better. He likely will test the hip in a bullpen session Wednesday in Philadelphia. If all is good, he will pitch Sunday against the Orioles, with lefty Josh Fleming again available behind him in relief.

Miscellany

First baseman Mike Ford, who could have been a potential replacement for Choi, was claimed on waivers Monday by the Nationals. Ford, acquired in June from the Yankees, was designated for assignment on Saturday as the Rays needed a 40-man roster spot. ... The Rays’ tentative rotation for the weekend series in Baltimore has Shane McClanahan pitching Friday, Michael Wacha Saturday and Archer Sunday. ... This is the Rays’ third visit to Philadelphia since losing the 2008 World Series there; they went 2-1 in 2012 and 1-2 in 2015.

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