ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays will be without second baseman Brandon Lowe, one of their top sluggers, for more than a month due to a stress reaction in his low back.
Lowe will be on a rest and rehab program with no baseball activities for three weeks, then will be re-evaluated to see if he has improved enough to start working back into game shape. Realistically, a late-June return would be considered good.
“It’s a hit, there’s no doubt,” manager Kevin Cash said before Tuesday’s game. “He’s a big part of our club, offense, defense. Hopefully we’re going to re-evaluate in three weeks, see where he’s at and get him back as soon as possible. But after that, I mean, there’s not much. We’re just going to have to make do without him.”
The Rays plan to mix and match at second base, primarily with Taylor Walls and recent call-up Vidal Brujan. Isaac Paredes is another option, though he is better at third base than second.
“We feel like we have guys that are capable of moving around,” Cash said. “It’s a good opportunity for Bru. He’s going to get some reps, whether they come at second, at third or in the outfield. He’s a player that we’ve liked for a long time and he’s going to get, I feel, like a pretty good lane here to go play.”
Lowe, who hit a team-high 39 homers last season, said his back has been bothering him since spring training and may have been impacting his swing as he has been off to a slow start (.212, five homers, 12 RBIs, .708 OPS), but he “just figured that it was going to go away and be fine.”
He said it got worse during the recent 10-day West Coast road trip, which led to a Monday visit with back specialist Dr. Tom Tolli and imaging. Lowe’s diagnosis is an indication of issue within a bone — in his case in the lower spine — that could develop into small cracks and fractures if the current stresses and loads continue, so rest is required.
“Obviously (I’m) frustrated and disappointed,” Lowe said. “I never want to be on the (injured list) but there is a little bit of relief to know what’s been bothering me, why it’s been hurting.’ So a little bit, I guess you’d say kind of bittersweet-ish.”
Lowe said he knows from previous injuries to not try and rush back. “I’m not going to force it to come back before it’s ready,” he said. “Talking with (Tolli and head athletic trainer Joe Benge), they believe the timetable that they’ve set, hopefully, it’s the right timetable and I feel great in three weeks and can get baseball started and hopefully be back soon after that.”
Relievers JT Chargois (oblique) and Chris Mazza (back) threw an inning each in extended spring training Tuesday and are slated to throw next for Triple-A Durham on Friday. … Reliever Phoenix Sanders (back) is on a rehab assignment with the Bulls and Cash said they will have a decision soon on his status. … Starter Luis Patino (oblique) threw off the mound Tuesday for the first time.
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