ST. PETERSBURG — Wander Franco returned to the Rays on Sunday after recovering from a right quad strain that sidelined him for almost a month.
The 21-year-old phenom started at shortstop and was 1-for-5 with a strikeout.
“I feel good, thank God,” Franco said via team translator Manny Navarro.
Franco rejoined the team Saturday after a five-game rehab assignment. He went 3-for-9 in his three appearances with Triple-A Durham. He said that he felt ready after his second rehab game at that level.
To prevent a similar injury, Franco said he will focus on his pregame routine and lower-leg workouts more to make sure he’s warmed up properly.
Franco said the experience was frustrating because it was the first time he had been down for so long.
“But I’m here,” Franco said, “and I’m ready to go.”
To make room for Franco, the Rays optioned infielder Jonathan Aranda to Durham. Aranda was 2-for-3 with an RBI in two games with Tampa Bay.
Franco’s return was a welcome boost to the clubhouse.
“Everyone knows how special that guy is and what he can bring to this team,” pitcher Shane Baz said.
Shane shines (again)
Shane McClanahan struck out 10 Sunday, giving him a majors-most 123 this season. His performance (seven innings, one earned run allowed) marked the ninth consecutive time the USF product has lasted at least six innings and allowed two or fewer earned runs. That passed Paul Wilson (2001-02) for the longest streak in Rays history.
Manager Kevin Cash said “just about everything” was working for McClanahan, again.
McClanahan did not issue a walk, giving him six starts with at least seven strikeouts and no walks this season. The last Rays pitcher to accomplish that feat: David Price (2014).
Isaac Paredes continued his torrid stretch, going 3-for-3 with a walk, two doubles and an RBI single in the seventh. He had hit a home run in three consecutive games, plus a walkoff single Saturday night.
“He’s seeing the ball really well right now,” Cash said. “We’re learning a little bit about him as we go, but very impressed with jus this patience, his calmness in the box and his confidence that he’s showing.”
Baz vs. Brewers
Baz is still getting into form after having arthroscopic surgery on his elbow in March. After a rough return against the Twins (five runs in 2 1/3 innings), Baz has allowed only six hits and one run over his last two games heading into Tuesday’s start against the Brewers.
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“I think it’s just trying to chase the consistency,” Baz said. “I mean, I’m still working on just getting my body back to where I want making sure that I’m bouncing back the way that I should.”
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