BOSTON — Major League Baseball assigns someone to every game to work as an authenticator, verifying that balls, bats and other game-used items that are saved by players or sold are legitimate.
The man assigned to Monday’s game was kept plenty busy by one player: Wander Franco, the Rays’ 20-year-old rookie sensation.
Franco swung at the first pitch he saw and tripled, which extended his on-base streak to 36 games, tying Yankees Hall of Famer Mickey Mantle for most by an American Leaguer 20 or younger, and moving him within seven of Frank Robinson’s overall record. (Franco also has the longest active streak in the majors.)
By the sixth inning, Franco made more history with the first four-hit game of his burgeoning career.
“The guy kept coming every at-bat and hit, hit, hit,” manager Kevin Cash said. “I kept telling him, just stand out here for all these guys, we’ll get as many balls as you want it they’re going to keep hitting like Wander is.
“But continue to say it, feels good to say it: He’s really talented, really special, just helps us in so many ways.”
Franco, who was born in 2001 — 33 years after Mantle’s last game — said he was honored to join elite company. “It’s pretty good to be in the same list as names like Mickey Mantle — he’s a superstar,” Franco said. “And I’m glad I was able to achieve this.”
The Rays sent down lefty Dietrich Enns on Monday morning and called up David Hess from Triple-A Durham to add a fresh arm capable of providing length to a bullpen that had to cover 6 1/3 innings Sunday. When Ryan Yarbrough lasted only two innings in a miserable outing that left the Rays down 7-1, it seemed like a smart move.
Except for one thing. Hess’ flight was canceled, and he didn’t get to Boston, through protocols, into uniform and out to the bullpen until the seventh inning, when the Rays had battled back into the game and already used Shawn Armstrong, Adam Conley, JT Chargois with J.P. Feyereisen in next.
“It’s not the way we drew it up,” Cash said. “We were pitching guys generally that wouldn’t be pitching in that state of the game.” The Rays had room to add Hess to the 40-man roster because reliever Chris Mazza, though on option to Durham, was placed on the COVID-19-related injured list due to a close contact.
Medical matters: Anderson, Wisler, Phillips, Choi
High-leverage reliever Nick Anderson could join the Rays to make his season debut as soon as this weekend. Anderson, working back from a spring elbow sprain, is slated to make his 11th rehab appearance for Durham on Wednesday. He told Cash after his Saturday outing that he felt he was ready to return. “For me to hear that was pretty exciting,” Cash said.
Reliever Matt Wisler (middle finger inflammation) and first baseman Ji-Man Choi (left hamstring strain) are expected to be activated by Wednesday, and outfielder Brett Phillips (right ankle sprain) on Friday.
⋅ Catcher Francisco Mejia left the game “in a lot of pain” shortly after taking a foul ball off his right shoulder in the sixth inning, but was feeling better with treatment, Cash said, and “should be okay.”
⋅ With the Rays up two, reliever Collin McHugh intentionally balked to start the 10th, moving runner Jonathan Arauz to third from second, where he could have been in position to relay signs to the hitters.
⋅ Brandon Lowe played first base in the 10th, his seventh career appearance.
⋅ Home plate umpire Manny Gonzalez left in the first inning after being hit in the mask by a foul tip. The game continued with three umpires briefly, then John Libka, who was scheduled to join the crew Tuesday and already in town, was summoned and took over at second base.
* Paul Kirsch, the Rays longtime area scout in the Pacific Northwest, died Monday at age 65 after a lengthy battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Cash began his post-game media session acknowledging Kirsch, who started as an original member of the team’s staff in 1996.
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