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Rays Report: Ji-Man Choi returns to lineup against Brewers

The first baseman, who missed Tuesday’s loss due to left ankle discomfort, will hit sixth against left-hander Eric Lauer.
Ji-Man Choi returns to the Rays’ lineup Wednesday, playing first base and hitting sixth.
Ji-Man Choi returns to the Rays’ lineup Wednesday, playing first base and hitting sixth. [ JEFFEREE WOO | Times ]
Published Jun. 29

ST. PETERSBURG — Ji-Man Choi returns to the Rays’ lineup Wednesday, playing first base and hitting sixth, as the Rays close out their two-game series against the Brewers. He missed Tuesday’s loss with left ankle discomfort, and manager Kevin Cash said pregame that Choi is “fine.”

“He was going to be available if we needed a big pinch-hit last night,” Cash said. “Took plenty of swings during the day, so he’s good to go.”

The Rays — who had a three-game winning streak snapped with Tuesday’s loss — will use Jalen Beeks as their opener for the third time in his last four appearances. With Beeks on three days of rest, Cash said he doesn’t know if the appearance will stretch longer than two innings, but the Rays “should be pretty good in the bullpen.” Beeks blew a save against the Pirates on June 25 and allowed two runs in 1-2/3 innings against the Yankees in his last start.

The Rays will use Vidal Bruján in centerfield against Milwaukee left-hander Eric Lauer. Bruján has appeared in rightfield 14 times for the Rays this season, but it’s the first time he’s played centerfield in the majors since July 17, 2021 against Atlanta. His other 30 games this season were split between second base (24), shortstop (5) and third base (1). Cash said if Bruján becomes comfortable in center, the additional versatility will help the Rays in the final half of the season.

“His speed is fine for centerfield speed … but still, he’s learning the position as we get deeper in the season,” Cash said.

The last time Lauer threw against the Rays, he allowed three runs and six hits across five innings in 2019 — taking a no-decision in Milwaukee’s 7-5 loss. Cash doesn’t recall much from that start, but said Lauer “mixes his pitches well.” He enters with a 6-3 record and 3.89 ERA after his first 13 starts.

Here’s the Rays’ lineup:

Here’s the Brewers’ lineup:

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