ANAHEIM, Calif. — Outfielder Manuel Margot had already earned a new nickname — “Mar-go-ahead” — for his recent run of clutch late-game hits.
Monday brought a more formal honor, as he was named American League Player of the Week.
Margot was certainly deserving, hitting .500 (12-for-24) with 12 RBIs, including three times in a five-day span when he knocked in the go-ahead run in the eighth inning or later, and homered in three straight games for the first time in his career.
“Just really appreciative of how his bat has come to life here as of late. Really come to life,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “We want to just keep him going and see if he can ride this out. We know he’s a very good hitter. He’s kind of taken it to another level this last week.”
Margot, who also won player of the week honors with San Diego in July 2017, said he appreciated the acknowledgment.
“I feel good,” he said before Monday’s game, via team interpreter Manny Navarro. “I’m happy. I’m mostly happy with the way the team has been playing, obviously except for (Sunday’s loss), but that I’m glad everyone’s been contributing.”
Cash said he added to Margot’s prize by moving him up to fifth in Monday’s batting order (and dropping Randy Arozarena to seventh), and is willing to use that lure for others. “Trying to get him closer to the top,” Cash said. “Next guy that wants to do it, we’ll move them up, too.”
In Monday’s game against the Angels, Margot left in the sixth inning due to right hamstring discomfort after a head-first slide stealing second base following his second hit of the night.
Cash said after the game the Rays feel it was just a matter of tightness, not a strain, and noted that Margot wanted to stay in. Margot said he considered it “just a little bit of a bother” and would take it day to day but didn’t expect to end up on the injured list.
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Reliever Calvin Faucher (FOE-shay) was promoted from Triple-A to add a fresh arm to the bullpen, getting word of his first call-up when Durham manager Brady Williams announced it as the team was changing planes in Atlanta on Sunday night. “Very excited,” he said.
Better for Faucher, his parents, sister and other family and friends live in the San Diego area and were able to make the relatively short drive to Angel Stadium for Monday’s game. Plus, he went to college at nearby UC-Irvine and had been to at least one Angels game as a kid so he is familiar with the area.
Faucher said he knew who he had to share the news with first given Sunday’s holiday.
“I called (my mother) and first, I told her happy Mother’s Day,” he said. “Then I asked her, I was like, ‘Well, what are you guys doing (Monday) at 6:30?’ Because that’s the game time. And then she actually realized it. I didn’t think she would, but she realized it, which is funny. So she was super excited. My sister was over there with her family and stuff; they were having dinner. So it was a good time.”
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Faucher was a Double-A reliever with a 7.04 ERA when acquired from Minnesota last July in the Nelson Cruz deal, but his performance improved considerably under Tampa Bay tutelage, as he learned to mix his pitches more and had a 1.44 ERA in 14 games between Double- and Triple-A, and was added to the 40-man roster. He was 1-3, 5.02 in 10 games for Durham this year.
“There’s been a lot of talk about him,” Cash said. “He’s got really good stuff. Good fastball, really good breaking ball. The pitch usage distribution, there’s been some inconsistencies a little bit in Triple-A, but that’s part because it’s an early part of the season. But certainly a guy that we value, that impressed us in spring training.”
Faucher, however, had a rough debut in the seventh inning Monday night, allowing the first five he faced to reach, walking Mike Trout to force in a run then giving up a grand slam to Shohei Ohtani.
“Not ideal,’' Cash said. “But hopefully he can look back and have the appreciation that he was pitching to Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani.’'
Ralph Garza Jr., who was called up and pitched Saturday and Sunday, was optioned back to Durham.
Brett Phillips’ fourth-inning ground out Monday ended a streak of nine consecutive strikeouts. ... Shane Baz took another step forward in his recovery from spring arthroscopic elbow surgery, looking good throwing to hitters in Port Charlotte. He likely will have a few more live batting practice sessions before starting a minor-league rehab, with a target of being ready when eligible June 6. … Reliever JT Chargois, out since mid-April with oblique tightness, had what Cash called “a really encouraging day” playing catch and is set to advance to throwing off the mound starting Wednesday. … Due to Lightning coverage on Bally Sports Sun, Tuesday’s game will air on Bally Sports Florida in the Tampa Bay market. … Corey Kluber starts Tuesday with the benefit of an extra day of rest as the Rays inserted Jeffrey Springs into the rotation Monday. … Angels manager Joe Maddon, who led the Rays from 2006-14, spent some time visiting pre-game with Rays staff.
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