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Rays targeting a Friday return for Wander Franco

Notebook | The rookie will test his hamstring with two rehab games; Andrew Kittredge (neck) expects short injured list stint.
Rays shortstop Wander Franco, who is on the injured list, participates in batting practice recently against the Tigers at Tropicana Field. Franco is headed to Durham for two rehab games this week.
Rays shortstop Wander Franco, who is on the injured list, participates in batting practice recently against the Tigers at Tropicana Field. Franco is headed to Durham for two rehab games this week. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]
Published Sep. 21
Updated Sep. 21

ST. PETERSBURG — If rookie Wander Franco’s contributions are what’s been missing from the Rays lineup, they now have a target date on when things should get better, with a Friday return planned.

The Rays also shared Monday that they expect to be without top reliever Andrew Kittredge until Sept. 28, as he was placed on the 10-day injured list because of neck tightness, and that pitcher Chris Archer’s season is officially over due to hip discomfort.

Franco, sidelined with a right hamstring strain, went through a full workout with the Rays on Monday, then headed to Triple-A Durham, where he is slated to play rehab games Wednesday and Thursday.

“And then if all goes well,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said, “we would like to think that he would be available to us on Friday.”

Franco left the Sept. 10 game in the first inning after a single that extended his on-base steak to 39 games, having hit .285 with seven homers, 36 RBIs and an .810 OPS.

Starting that night, the Rays lost six of their next 11 games, averaging 4.1 runs, hitting .223 and posting a .692 OPS. Over the previous 67 games, starting with Franco’s June 22 debut, they were 45-22, averaging 6.03 runs while hitting .256 with a .748 OPS.

Kittredge, the Rays’ top high-leverage reliever, insisted the neck issue was not a concern and that the move to the injured list was designed to make sure he is ready for the final week of games and the playoffs.

“This is really more just precautionary being where we’re at in the season,” he said. “I’m not concerned that this is going to be something that lingers or anything, don’t expect it to be long.”

Kittredge said the neck bothered him a bit in early August, and when he felt it again recently the team decided to play it safe. But he said he felt good enough Monday that he would stay on his throwing program while sidelined. With the move backdated to Sept. 18, and the Rays having two upcoming off days, he will miss only the six games against the Jays and Marlins.

Archer’s season over

Archer’s disappointing and frustrating return to the Rays officially came to an end as he was shifted to the 60-day injured list. That was to make room on the 40-man roster for the promotion of pitcher Shane Baz, ironically one of the three talented players the Rays got from the Pirates in a memorable July 2018 trade.

Archer, who sat out the 2020 season with Pittsburgh after undergoing thoracic outlet syndrome surgery, signed a one-year, $6.5 million deal with the Rays, but pitched in only six games, going 1-1, 4.66. He left his second outing on April 10 with a forearm injury then, after also dealing with the May 1 death of his mother, returned in August but was limited by the hip discomfort. Since going back on the injured list Sept. 12, Archer has been seeking additional medical opinions.

Chris Archer pitched in only six games this season for Tampa Bay.
Chris Archer pitched in only six games this season for Tampa Bay. [ GAIL BURTON | Associated Press ]

“He worked hard to try to get back,” Cash said. “Would really like to see and hope that Arch can somehow get himself in a situation where his body is not limiting him. There’s a good pitcher in there. He knows that. We know that. It’s tough to compete, certainly at this level, when you’ve got something constantly nagging at you.

“Hope the best for him that he can figure it out, whether it’s through us, his agent or himself. Get the images that are necessary, find some doctors, put their heads together, and let’s see if we can get this ironed out as far as the hip is concerned.”

Miscellany

⋅ Baz, who wore No. 11, was the team-record 61st player and 38th pitcher used this year.

⋅ Reliever Matt Wisler, who has pitched once since Aug. 15 due to middle finger inflammation, is slated to start throwing this week but Cash said “time is of the essence” and “it’s going to be a little challenging to get him back before season’s end.”

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