ARLINGTON, Texas — The Rays on Tuesday decided enough was enough after Wander Franco’s latest leg issue and placed the star shortstop on the 10-day injured list with hopes he can return by mid-June.
Franco has been dealing with quad and hamstring issues in both legs since late April, forcing him out of the lineup for four games, relegating him to designated hitter duty in five others and limiting him at times in what he could do when playing, such as not running hard on routine outs and declining to slide at home plate in extra innings earlier this month in Baltimore.
Franco left Monday’s game in the ninth inning after feeling “a little tug” in his right quad while turning first base after a single he intended to stretch into a double.
When checked on in his hotel room by head athletic trainer Joe Benge Tuesday morning, Franco said he wanted to play but was not sure he’d be able to run, the uncertainty a new element in the ongoing discussion about his status. The Rays decided then that he needed time to heal.
“We want to get Wander right,” manager Kevin Cash said.
The injury is being called a right quad strain, and for now the Rays are hoping Franco will miss only about two weeks. He underwent an MRI on Tuesday night to determine the severity, with the results forwarded to Dr. Koco Eaton.
“We looked at it, I think it’s going to be a couple weeks,” Cash said after Tuesday’s 3-0 loss to the Rangers. ”Not overly concerned. Each player responds a little differently to how they (do) with treatment and rest. Hopefully Wander can turn it around pretty quick and start feeling better.”
Franco, who on Monday said he was concerned about going on the injured list and being sidelined, said it it will be a matter of how he progresses on a daily basis, acknowledging he was still feeling “a slight pain” in the quad.
“Hopefully two weeks is sufficient,” he said, via team interpreter Manny Navarro. “If I’ve got to go longer then it’s just going to go longer.”
With Franco out, Taylor Walls, who has been serving in the utility infield role, will be the primary starter at shortstop, his natural and preferred position, with Vidal Brujan also getting some time. Brujan and Isaac Paredes will share time at second, where starter Brandon Lowe is sidelined with a back injury.
Walls said it was “very unfortunate” to lose a player of Franco’s caliber, noting “it’s kind of obvious this team needs him in the lineup. When his bat’s not in there it changes kind of the dynamic of it.”
He said it was time for other Rays to step up, and he was ready to do his part: “I love playing short, I think everybody knows that. So I don’t have a problem with doing it. Just trying to step in, trying to get my bat going. ... It’s tough to have this conversation because I never want anybody on my team to get hurt.”
Another factor in the Franco decision, Cash acknowledged, is that “he hasn’t been himself recently,” hitting .232 with no homers, six RBIs and a .566 OPS in 25 May games, even with three hits on Monday. In contrast, Franco hit .313 with four homers, 13 RBIs and a .912 OPS in 20 games in April.
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“Probably it was just time,” Cash said. “(He’s a) young player that wanted to continue to play. We felt it was the right decision to try to get him healthy.”
Franco, who has clearly been frustrated with the situation, said he thinks rest was the right call.
“To this point, I think it’s a good decision for my body and we’re just going to continue with that decision from here on out,” he said.
Franco, who signed an 11-year, $182 million contract before this season, also served an injured stint in September for right hamstring tightness.
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