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Wander Franco back in the lineup for Rays vs. Twins

The rookie sensation, who left Thursday’s game with a headache, feels better after sitting out Friday night.
The Rays' Wander Franco, center, extends his on-base streak to 34 games, the third longest in major-league history for a player age 20 or younger.
The Rays' Wander Franco, center, extends his on-base streak to 34 games, the third longest in major-league history for a player age 20 or younger. [ SCOTT AUDETTE | Associated Press ]
Published Sep. 4
Updated Sep. 5

ST. PETERSBURG — Shortstop Wander Franco was cleared to return to the lineup Saturday, and Rays officials were relieved to have him back.

The 20-year-old rookie sensation left Thursday’s game after a seventh inning at-bat under concerning circumstances for what the Rays said was a headache, then sat out Friday.

He was in the lineup for Saturday’s game against the Twins, playing shortstop, hitting second and looking fine, rapping hits his first two times up. In doing so, Franco extended his on-base streak to 34 games, third longest in major-league history for a player age 20 or younger and the longest such single-season streak in American League play.

While several doctor examinations and a battery of tests did not identify the cause of the headache, Rays manager Kevin Cash said before Saturday’s game that they were confident Franco was good to go.

“I think that it could have been a number of things,” Cash said. “Now I’m glad that we went through (everything); (head athletic trainer) Joe Benge is going to do everything in his power to check every box, which we did.

“So dehydration, I don’t think it’s that. Sometimes you just have some headaches that pop up. Maybe it was a migraine that maybe he hasn’t experienced before. But I don’t think any of us have a good answer for it.”

Because the tests included checking symptoms related to a concussion, protocols required Major League Baseball and players union officials to also sign off on Franco’s return.

“I don’t know how they actually rule that out; I think you check for a lot of other things when you run those scans and stuff,” Cash said. “And that all checked out.”

Cash said Franco was improved on Friday and “much better” on Saturday when he came to Tropicana Field around 10 a.m. for further doctor examinations.

“He slept well, ate well (Friday) night, ate well (Saturday) morning,” Cash said. “He’s out in the cage, on the field, doing everything. We checked a lot of boxes last night where he got on a stationary bike and did some things and no issue whatsoever. So good to have him back.”

After a couple slow weeks since his June 22 callup, Franco has been one of the Rays’ best all-around players, hitting .278 with seven homers, 36 RBIs and a .798 OPS in 57 games, and having gone 39 plate appearances since last striking out.

Cash said there has been much to like.

“This on-base streak has stood out; he just gets on base at a really high clip,” Cash said. “The at-bats were good when he got up here and the numbers maybe weren’t matching what he was doing. Now he’s figured out a way to have the bats be good and the numbers are backing that up.

“But just a really talented player, both sides of the ball. I like that we’ve seen him improve his work before batting practice on the ground balls. And he’s taken it to the game where he’s charging balls more, he’s being a little bit more aggressive. So the defense probably is what has impressed the most.”

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