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Rays lose another key piece, place Andrew Kittredge on injured list

The team’s top high-leverage reliever has been dealing with a back issue; Wander Franco returns to action.
Rays relief pitcher Andrew Kittredge is headed to the 15-day injured list while trying to sort out a back issue.
Rays relief pitcher Andrew Kittredge is headed to the 15-day injured list while trying to sort out a back issue. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]
Published May 22|Updated May 23

BALTIMORE — Though infielders Yandy Diaz and Wander Franco were feeling better Sunday, the Rays couldn’t get any relief from injuries, with pitcher Andrew Kittredge sidelined for at least 10 more games.

Kittredge, their top high-leverage reliever, has been dealing with lower-back tightness — and not pitching well — for a while. He last worked May 16. When he still felt the discomfort while throwing off the mound Sunday morning, the Rays put him on the 15-day injured list and called up Dusten Knight from Triple A. The move could be backdated three days, so Kittredge is eligible to return June 3, with the team hoping the rest helps and he will be ready then.

“The back (issue) is just not going away for him,’’ manager Kevin Cash said. “Just shut him down and let’s see if we can clean him up. And hopefully close to a minimum stint.’’

The team had room to add Knight to its 40-man roster because reliever JT Chargois had a serious setback in his recovery from a left oblique issue and will miss several more months. Chargois sustained a Grade 2 strain while warming up Friday for what was to be his first rehab outing.

Knight ended up as Sunday’s losing pitcher, working a scoreless 10th, then allowing a leadoff bunt and a fielder’s choice grounder that scored the winner. Known for doing backflips after recording saves in the minors, Knight pitched in one April game for the Rays, was designated for assignment, cleared waivers and outrighted back to Durham.

Franco improves enough to play, cites turf as cause

Franco has been sidelined by right quad discomfort, the latest in a series of ongoing leg issues. He said before Sunday’s game that after several days of treatment by the athletic training staff that he felt “much better” and was “hoping to return as soon as possible.” He did, in the 10th inning, striking out as a pinch-hitter and taking over at shortstop.

Franco also said that playing extensively on artificial turf, such as at the Trop, for the first time in his career is probably part of the cause. “I think it does play a factor,’’ he said, via team interpreter Manny Navarro. “It’s something new and something you have to adapt to, and I think my body’s still adapting to it.’’

Diaz, who strained his left shoulder sliding into home Saturday, said he felt good but hadn’t tested it by swinging yet. Cash wanted to avoid using Diaz so he could have the benefit of extra rest with the team off Monday.

Seminole High reunion

Rays outfielder Brett Phillips and Orioles reliever Joey Krehbiel are close friends who have been playing baseball with and against each other for nearly 20 years, including three as Seminole High teammates. They faced off several times in the minors with mixed results. Sunday was the first time they did so in the majors, and Phillips got bragging rights with a single and a stolen base. “I play catch with him in the offseason, so that’s probably the most disadvantage he’ll ever have in a matchup,’’ Phillips said. “I know exactly his arm motion and what he throws.’’

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Cash was ejected for objecting to Ji-Man Choi being called out on strikes to start the fifth. It’s the first time Cash had been tossed since the Sept. 1, 2020, game at Yankee Stadium, when Aroldis Chapman threw a pitch at Mike Brosseau’s head and Cash said he had “a whole damn stable” of hard-throwing relievers. … Outfielder Manuel Margot (right hamstring) is slated to play in extended spring games Monday and Tuesday and be ready to be activated when eligible on Wednesday.

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