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Rays hit again by COVID-19 as Yandy Diaz is sidelined

Notes | Vidal Brujan is called up to replace the infielder who went on the COVID-19 injured list.
Tampa Bay Rays infiielder Yandy Diaz (2) wears a mask during warmups before Friday's game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Boston Red Sox at Tropicana Field, Friday, April 22, 2022 in St. Petersburg.
Tampa Bay Rays infiielder Yandy Diaz (2) wears a mask during warmups before Friday's game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Boston Red Sox at Tropicana Field, Friday, April 22, 2022 in St. Petersburg. [ MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE | Times ]
Published Apr. 23|Updated Apr. 24

ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays lost a second player to COVID-19 issues, as infielder Yandy Diaz was sidelined for at least Saturday’s game due to virus symptoms though not a positive test.

Diaz was placed on the COVID-19 injured list shortly before the game against the Red Sox and was replaced on the active roster by infielder/outfielder Vidal Brujan, who was summoned earlier in the day from Triple-A Durham just in case.

Catcher Francisco Mejia was placed on the COVID list Friday after testing positive, as were some staff members.

Manager Kevin Cash said after Saturday’s game that they didn’t know if Diaz would be back Sunday; the team is off Monday, so they could opt to wait until Tuesday.

“We’re not totally sure on Yandy yet,’' Cash said. “He came in just not feeling well. So we’ll have more probably through the night or first thing (Sunday) morning. ‘'

Mejia was “doing OK” on Saturday,’' Cash said. “(Friday) was kind of a groggy day for him, but hopefully he continues to make progress.’’ Cash said some of the staff that was kept away from the team Friday for precautionary reasons had returned.

Better late than never for Pinto

Called up from the minors for his Major League debut,  Tampa Bay Rays catcher Rene Pinto (50), attends pre-game warmups, before a game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Boston Red Sox at Tropicana Field, Saturday, April 23, 2022 in St. Petersburg.
Called up from the minors for his Major League debut, Tampa Bay Rays catcher Rene Pinto (50), attends pre-game warmups, before a game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Boston Red Sox at Tropicana Field, Saturday, April 23, 2022 in St. Petersburg. [ MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE | Times ]

With Mejia out, Rene Pinto got word Friday afternoon that he was being called up to the big leagues for the first time in his career.

But he couldn’t get to the Trop in time for that night’s game.

Pinto was with Durham in Norfolk, Va., and the only available flights, connecting through Atlanta, didn’t get him to Tampa until around 10:30 p.m., about the time the game against Boston was ending.

“I was trying to be here on time, but we couldn’t (make it),’’ Pinto, 25, said via team interpreter Manny Navarro.

Pinto had to settle for coming to work as a major-leaguer for the first time on Saturday, completing a journey that started when he signed as a 16-year-old from Venezuela with the Rays in 2013. (Among active Rays players, only Kevin Kiermaier has been with the franchise longer.)

“I know I’ve grinded in this organization,’’ Pinto said. “I’ve started from the bottom, and I’ve had to work my way up. Thank God I’ve had this opportunity to do that now.’’

Cash praised Pinto’s defensive skills and said he might get his first start Sunday since he has some past experience with starter Shane McClanahan.

Miscellany

From Friday through the ninth inning Saturday, Rays pitchers worked 13 straight hitless innings. ... Lefty Ryan Yarbrough, out since the start of the season with left groin tightness, said he felt fine but faced only six batters in his rehab start for Durham, walking four of the first five and allowing a hit. “Not ideal,’’ Cash said. “It didn’t sound like he had command whatsoever.’' Yarbrough did throw more in the bullpen, but Cash said he likely will have to make another rehab start rather than make a hoped-for return to the Rays this week. ... Umpire crew chief Jerry Meals referred to the home team as “Tampa” twice in replay announcements. ... When outfielder Brett Phillips made a surprise visit to the home of 8-year-old cancer patient Chloe Grimes on Thursday, he brought the ball that he hit into the C-ring catwalk for a home run during the April 12 game she attended. The visit was shown Friday on the CBS Evening News. ... Wander Franco’s two home runs Friday were the hardest hit balls of his career, clocking 109.7 mph (done once previously) and 112.4 off the bat. … At 21 years and 52 days, Franco not only was the youngest player in Rays history with a multihomer game but the youngest in the majors since Washington’s Juan Soto (20 years, 297 days) on Aug. 18, 2019.

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