ST. PETERSBURG — The latest Manuel Margot update for the Rays might be their most promising one yet.
Manager Kevin Cash said Friday that Margot has a “significant” patellar tendon strain, but it doesn’t appear he’ll need surgery and they’re hopeful for a late-season return. Margot, who crashed into the rightfield wall Monday, was placed on the 60-day injured list, making Aug. 20 the earliest date the Rays could activate him.
“It’s gonna be some time for the rehab,” Cash said.
Cash said the Rays initially feared an ACL tear — which would have required surgery and takes longer to heal — based on the injury and swelling. But after getting opinions from multiple doctors to confirm the patellar tendon issue, they now “feel confident” that Margot can rehab and potentially rejoin their lineup late in the season.
“We’ll keep our fingers crossed that he makes some good headway,” Cash said.
Franco, Rasmussen making progress
Wander Franco took one step closer to a return when he served as the designated hitter for Durham on Friday. He went 2-for-4 with an RBI, and he also scored a run.
Cash said that if Franco made it through the game, he’d return to the Rays on Saturday for an evaluation by their athletic trainers. Franco could possibly return as early as Sunday against the Pirates or, given the Rays’ off-day Monday, on Tuesday when they begin a two-game series against the Brewers. Franco, hitting .270 before the injury, hasn’t played for the Rays since May 30 due to a right quad strain.
Drew Rasmussen, out since mid-June with a hamstring strain, will throw three innings of live batting practice Saturday at the Rays’ Port Charlotte facility to test his hamstring and continue building toward a return — which could come next week when the Rays play Toronto five times in four days.
“He’ll get out there, get his pitches in and we’ll see where we go from there,” Cash said.
An MLB debut and a return to the majors
Both Luke Raley and Jonathan Aranda knew on Thursday that they’d make their Rays debut and MLB debut, respectively, the next day, and they finished a combined 2-for-6 with two RBIs. Raley singled home a run in the second inning, and two batters later, Aranda scored Raley with a single.
Aranda’s parents — who haven’t seen him play professionally in the United States — and girlfriend watched from the field as the second baseman took batting practice, while Raley, who started in leftfield, said his parents and girlfriend also attended. For Raley, it marked his return to the majors after 33 games with the Dodgers last year.
And for Aranda, it started the next phase of his professional career. When he saw the ball cleared the infield, “the heart was about to come out of my body,” he said. Aranda plans to eventually keep the ball from that first hit in his room, but postgame, he planned to deliver it to his parents.
Stay updated on Tampa Bay’s sports scene
Subscribe to our free Sports Today newsletter
You’re all signed up!
Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.Explore all your options
“Those are one of those things that you never forget,” Cash said. “You don’t forget the at-bat, then you’re fortunate enough to get a hit. That’s pretty special.”
Pirates manager Derek Shelton, the Rays’ hitting coach from 2010-2016, returned to Tropicana Field and saw former colleagues and staff. Also, the gift left by former Pirates/now Yankees pitcher Jameson Taillon as part of their ongoing bourbon exchange: bottles of Blanton’s Single Barrel and Eagle Rare. … A new Rays all-access show, profiling Randy Arozarena and discussing his defection from Cuba, premieres on Bally Sports Sun after Saturday’s game (approximately 4:30 p.m.).
Times staff writer Marc Topkin contributed to this report.
• • •
Sign up for the Rays Report weekly newsletter to get fresh perspectives on the Tampa Bay Rays and the rest of the majors from sports columnist John Romano.