Rays’ Taylor Walls ‘more than ready’ to step in for Wander Franco

Rays notes | His defense is elite but offense has been an issue during his previous big-league stints.
Rays shortstop Taylor Walls throws to first during a July 10 game against the Blue Jays at Tropicana Field.
Rays shortstop Taylor Walls throws to first during a July 10 game against the Blue Jays at Tropicana Field. [ ARIELLE BADER | Times ]
Published Sep. 12, 2021|Updated Sep. 12, 2021

DETROIT — Like all Rays, Taylor Walls was concerned to hear Wander Franco was sidelined by a hamstring injury that will keep him out at least 2-3 weeks.

But Walls, called up Saturday from Triple A, is also determined to make the most of his third opportunity in the majors this season, confident he is ready to fill the void at shortstop.

“More than ready,’’ he said. “I feel like I belong here. I’m just really trying to step in, help this team as much as possible and try to clinch.’’

Walls’ glove work is elite, manager Kevin Cash saying they are “fortunate” to have the depth in the organization to be “able to insert a shortstop that plays as good defensively as anybody in baseball.’'

The issue with Walls, a 25-year-old switch-hitter, has been offense, acknowledging he needed to catch up better to fastballs and make a few other adjustments. He hit .203 through his first two stints on the Rays, with one homer, 13 RBIs, a .606 OPS and 41 strikeouts in 147 plate appearances. He went 2-for-3 with a walk in Saturday’s win over the Tigers.

Walls said the lack of production has been troubling.

“I mean, I have trouble sleeping at night,’’ he said. “Because of the type of player I am, or the hitter I am, and that this year in general, not just what I’ve done at the big-league level but even in Durham this year, it doesn’t sit well with me.

“I know I’m not that type of hitter. I don’t know why I’m doing some things so drastically different this year than other years.’'

Medical matters: Anderson, Wisler, Phillips

Reliever Nick Anderson is likely to be activated Sunday, having spent all season working back from a partial elbow-ligament tear in the spring, with a treatment plan that included an Organogenesis ReNu shot (amniotic tissue that has regenerative and anti-inflammatory properties). Anderson said there definitely were some times when he doubted if he would make it back — “every other day,’’ he joked — and some inconsistency in his stuff as he tries to maintain velocity, but the right-hander said feels good and ready to go. “Now’s the time,’’ he said. The team agrees, as pitching coach Kyle Snyder was “pretty excited’' watching Anderson throw in the bullpen Friday. … Cash said the report from hand specialist Dr. Doug Carlan on reliever Matt Wisler’s inflamed right middle finger was “probably better than anticipated,’’ with no changes in the imaging being “a very good.’’ Wisler will remain shut down from throwing for now and might end up having to decide if he can pitch effectively with some inflammation. “It’s going to be somewhat of a tolerance thing,’’ Cash said. … Outfielder Brett Phillips, out since Aug. 30 with a right-ankle sprain, is close to returning as well.

Proud papa

Outfielder Randy Arozarena rejoined the team, coming off the paternity list saying all was well back in St. Petersburg with his wife and their new daughter, Alaia, who was born Wednesday. Cash said he got a similar report: “He was excited, said everybody’s good, which is most important. Nice to have him back. We all know the energy that Randy brings.’’ With Arozarena reinstated, outfielder Josh Lowe, who debuted Wednesday, was optioned to Triple A.

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• A reminder that Sunday’s game has been moved up to a 12:10 start to lessen conflict with the Lions-49ers game at adjacent Ford Field.

• Pitching prospect Cole Wilcox, acquired from the Padres in the Blake Snell trade — along with Luis Patino, Francisco Mejia and catching prospect Blake Hunt — underwent Tommy John surgery Wednesday.

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