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Wander Franco set to rejoin Rays’ lineup Sunday

Notes | An extended program of rest and treatment, plus five games in the minors has the dynamic shortstop ready to go.
Rays shortstop Wander Franco, center, escorted off the field by team staff during a game against the Rangers in late May in Arlington, Texas, is expected to be activated and in the lineup for Sunday’s game against the Pirates.
Rays shortstop Wander Franco, center, escorted off the field by team staff during a game against the Rangers in late May in Arlington, Texas, is expected to be activated and in the lineup for Sunday’s game against the Pirates. [ TONY GUTIERREZ | Associated Press ]
Published Jun. 25|Updated Jun. 25

ST. PETERSBURG — Wander Franco is expected to be activated and in the Rays’ lineup for Sunday’s game against the Pirates.

Franco, out since May 31 with a right quad strain and limited for weeks before that, rejoined the team Saturday after completing a five-game, two-level rehab assignment on Friday with Triple-A Durham in Jacksonville.

Manager Kevin Cash saw Franco before Saturday’s game and said he appeared to be doing well. The team plans to make a final decision after having Franco visit with the athletic training staff.

The Rays are 25-14 with Franco in the lineup at shortstop, 14-18 when he doesn’t play or is limited to designated hitter duties. Obviously, they expect having him back and healthy to mean a lot.

“He’s going to complement any lineup,” Cash said. “I’m excited to see Wander when he gets back to be healthy. There was a quite a handful of games, maybe a month’s worth of games, he just wasn’t himself, he was trying to battle through an injury. He feels like he’s in a good spot.”

In addition to Durham’s coaching staff, the Rays got feedback from Jacksonville from minor-league field coordinator Michael Johns. “Another person that said, ‘Certainly looks ready to us,’” Cash said.

In two games with the Florida Complex League team and three with Durham, Franco was 6-for-16 (.375) with two doubles and a triple, striking out four times and walking twice.

The Rays will have to drop a position player to make room, and will shift Taylor Walls back to a utility role. By activating Franco Sunday, he can rest on Monday’s off day before they start a stretch of 10 games in nine days and 20 in 20 leading up to the July 18-21 All-Star break.

More medical: Rasmussen, Fairbanks, Kittredge

Drew Rasmussen (left hamstring strain), threw three innings of live batting practice Saturday in Port Charlotte, and could rejoin the rotation next week in Toronto.

Reliever Pete Fairbanks, out since spring training with a lat strain, is expected to throw live batting practice Monday and in an FCL game Thursday. If all goes well, he would join Durham for a multiple-appearance stint.

Andrew Kittredge rejoined the Rays after Wednesday’s Tommy John elbow surgery that will sideline him for at least a year. Kittredge said that going from thinking he would miss six weeks from having a loose body removed from his elbow to needing Tommy John surgery made for “a weird 48 hours” after consultation with Dr. Keith Meister.

“That was strange,” he said. “But having dealt with Meister in the past and really just trusting his opinion when it came down to it, and he recommended that I needed this, it made a lot of sense.”

Miscellany

Randy Arozarena had a career-high-tying four hits in Saturday’s 6-5 walkoff win over the Pirates, but given he has been struggling lately (4-for-33 in his previous nine games) and hadn’t had a multihit game in two weeks, he said: “Thank God I was able to have a good game, but I still don’t feel 100 percent how I want to feel at the plate.” ... Cash said the decision to take out starter Corey Kluber in the sixth (with only 63 pitches) was in part due to liking the matchup for lefty reliever Jalen Beeks with a string of Pirates lefties coming up but also “with Corey’s recent workload, we’re looking for opportunities to pull back.” ... The Rays had back-to-back walkoff wins for the first time since Sept. 20-21, 2019, and eighth overall. ... Taylor Walls batted leadoff for the first time in his career, going 2-for-4. ... Leading the majors in strikeouts (113) and the American League in ERA (1.81), opponents average (.185) and WHIP (walks and hits per inning pitched, 0.85), Shane McClanahan is eager to start Sunday against an unfamiliar Pirates team. “I’ve been looking forward to facing somebody else besides the Yankees (against whom he made his last two starts and three of five) for the last couple weeks,” he said. “All jokes aside, it’s exciting. It’s an interleague team, and I don’t think I’ve faced them before in my career, so I’m excited to prepare and get to work against them.”

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