Rays’ Kevin Cash defends Wander Franco’s apparent lack of hustle

Notes | The star shortstop has been told to throttle back running on routine plays after quad tightness.
Rays shortstop Wander Franco steals second base in the eighth inning as Seattle's Adam Frazier loses the ball Thursday afternoon at the Trop.
Rays shortstop Wander Franco steals second base in the eighth inning as Seattle's Adam Frazier loses the ball Thursday afternoon at the Trop. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]
Published April 28, 2022|Updated April 29, 2022

ST. PETERSBURG — Rays manager Kevin Cash knew how it looked.

Star second-year shortstop Wander Franco didn’t run hard down the line after hitting a ground ball that third baseman Abraham Toro made a good play on, nor did he accelerate at the end when Mariners first baseman Ty France briefly bobbled the throw.

But Cash said Franco was following orders to not push himself on routine plays after missing the April 18 game in Chicago due to right quad tightness.

“It’s 100 percent on me,” Cash said after Thursday’s 2-1 win. “I’ve looked at a young player and a lot of our players to say, ‘We’re playing a lot of baseball right now, manage your workload.’ He should have been out. I know the optics of it. But fully support Wander. He’s doing what I’m asking him to do, so I appreciate it.”

When Franco returned to the lineup April 19 against the Cubs, Cash and the staff urged him to take it easy. When he ran all out on a ground ball to first in his first at-bat, the coaches yelled at him from the dugout.

After a sizzling start to the season, Franco has cooled considerably. Since returning from Chicago, he is 3-for-24, albeit with three home runs, and 0-for-his-last-8, though he did walk and steal second in the eighth inning Thursday. Overall, he is hitting .307 with a .916 OPS.

With blue hair of course

With Mariners third baseman Abraham Toro shifted behind the mound with two outs in the seventh, Harold Ramirez kept expanding his lead from third base to about halfway home. Did he have a plan? “I don’t know,” he said. “Maybe I’m going to get a stolen base, you never know.”

Stealing home, like Randy Arozarena did in the 2021 playoffs, which the Rays made a promotional item for? “Yeah,” Ramirez said. “And maybe they’d do a bobblehead for me?”

Medical matters

First baseman Ji-Man Choi was out of the lineup a second straight day due to a slightly hyper-extended left elbow. Choi was available Thursday in an emergency situation and is expected back soon with no injured list stint. … Catcher Mike Zunino was out again due to a left biceps strain and is also expected back in the day or two. … Backup catcher Francisco Mejia missed his sixth game since testing positive for COVID-19 but told Cash in a text he was feeling good. He could be cleared to return this weekend. … Ryan Yarbrough (left groin tightness) threw 59 pitches over 2-2/3 innings for Triple-A Durham Thursday, allowing two unearned runs, four hits and two walks in his second rehab outing and could rejoin the rotation next week. Outfielder Ryan Boldt hit three homers in the 8-2 win over Memphis.


J.P. Feyereisen worked the seventh and eighth innings without allowing a baserunner, extending his streak of batters retired to 22 straight, going back to the fifth inning on April 11. ... The Rays are 6-3 in nine one-run games (most in the majors), and they allowed two or fewer earned runs for the fifth straight game, their longest such streak since early 2019. … Cash praised Taylor Walls for playing “Gold Glove caliber” defense at third Thursday. … The Rays snapped a streak of seven straight games with a home run. ... Mariners manager Scott Servias was ejected after objecting to a third-strike call on Julio Rodriguez in the sixth by fill-in umpire Shane Livensparger. … Two-time Ray Chris Archer returns to the Trop with this Twins this weekend and on Saturday will pitch for the first time as a visitor.

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