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Rays welcome back Francisco Mejia, two coaches

Notes | Matt Quatraro and Kyle Snyder are back, but Stan Boroski and Paul Hoover remain sidelined due to COVID-19.
The Rays' Francisco Mejia, right, celebrates his two-run home run off Chicago Cubs pitcher Marcus Stroman with Ji-Man Choi, left, during a game in April in Chicago. Mejia returned to the Rays Thursday after being away for COVID-related reasons.
The Rays' Francisco Mejia, right, celebrates his two-run home run off Chicago Cubs pitcher Marcus Stroman with Ji-Man Choi, left, during a game in April in Chicago. Mejia returned to the Rays Thursday after being away for COVID-related reasons. [ CHARLES REX ARBOGAST | AP ]
Published May 6|Updated May 6

SEATTLE — Three familiar faces were back in the Rays’ clubhouse Thursday, as catcher Francisco Mejia, pitching coach Kyle Snyder and bench coach Matt Quatraro returned from COVID-19-related absences.

Mejia, who tested positive after the team’s April 20 return from Chicago, said he had a few rough days battling the virus.

“I feel good. Thank God I’m back,” he said via team interpreter Manny Navarro. “At first, I thought it was just a little bit of a sore throat, a little sickness, but it got me.”

Mejia was surprised to test positive as he had received the initial vaccines, as well as the booster. He said he felt bad for five-six days, primarily due to a combination of sore throat and upset stomach. “It was just more so that I couldn’t eat,” he said. “That was the problem.”

Mejia said he watched the games while he was out, enjoying focusing on the situations and strategy, as well as one benefit of not being in the action: “I yell at the umpires every time I’m watching the game.”

After being cleared over the weekend to return, Mejia played two days with the extended spring team. Though Rene Pinto filled in well, manager Kevin Cash said it was good to have Mejia back, and he is likely to start Friday.

“It is good to see him, and he says that he feels fine,” Cash said. “I think he got beat up a little bit the first week with all this, but glad that we were able to get him his reps and now have him join us.”

Snyder and Quatraro, out since Saturday after testing positive, didn’t like having to tune in from home.

Snyder, whose symptoms were mild, said he is a “bad watcher,” frustrated by being away from the action and having no control over it. He anticipates it’s what it will be like for him once his 5-year-old starts playing ball.

Bad enough that Luke might have learned some new words from hearing his dad’s reactions? “Fortunately, he was asleep already,” Snyder said. “That was good.”

Cash said it was important to have the two key members of his staff back.

“It’s very valuable,” he said. “They’re part of the norm, so when they’re not around, it’s just different. Certainly glad to have them back, and I know the players are. … Q (Quatraro), just not having him around — and then the conversations that we have in the game — not having those the last three, four days, it’s been a little different.”

Bullpen coach Stan Boroski and field coordinator/catching coach Paul Hoover remain out. Rehab pitching coach Rick Knapp, who had been filling in for Snyder, will stay with the team a few more days.

Josh Fleming to mix things up

Josh Fleming, slated to pitch behind opener Matt Wisler Friday, said the key to changing his results is to mix up his pitch selection. Specifically, to make more use of his cutter and sweeping curve/slider — which he calls “The Chazzy,” since he learned the grip from ex-Ray Chaz Roe — and less of his sinker and changeup, feeling he was “a little too predictable” in his last outing, working with Pinto. “I just kind of fell in love with the sequence there early,” he said. “It sucks, as I have that power to shake and everything, and I just wouldn’t. And at the end of the day, it hurt us.”

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Miscellany

First baseman Ji-Man Choi, sidelined due to loose bodies in his right elbow, is “doing well,” Cash said, serving as the designated hitter in an extended spring game Thursday with plans to play first base Friday. He is eligible to come off the injured list Sunday. … Friday’s game won’t be shown by Bally Sports Sun, as it is another AppleTV+ exclusive. To watch for free, you need either the Apple TV+ app or an Apple ID to sign in to tv.apple.com. It is also available if you have a subscription to MLB.TV. ... First-pitch temperature was 52 degrees at T-Mobile Park, which had the retractable roof closed but has open sides.

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