Rays welcome back catcher Francisco Mejia

Notes | Mejia spent the minimum 10 days on the injured list due to a shoulder impingement of unknown origin.
Rays catcher Francisco Mejia, left, greets relief pitcher Colin Poche  after the ninth inning of Friday's game against the Tigers in Detroit.
Rays catcher Francisco Mejia, left, greets relief pitcher Colin Poche after the ninth inning of Friday's game against the Tigers in Detroit. [ CARLOS OSORIO | AP ]
Published Aug. 6, 2022|Updated Aug. 6, 2022

DETROIT — The Rays took another step toward getting their band back together Friday, as catcher Francisco Mejia was activated from the injured list.

Mejia missed only the minimum 10 days due to a right shoulder impingement, and he and the Rays are confident the switch-hitter can resume primary duties behind the plate. He went 0-for-3 with two walks Friday.

“It is good to have him back,” manager Kevin Cash said. “The shoulder’s feeling good. … We’ll just check day-to-day how he can bounce back.”

Christian Bethancourt will catch when Mejia can’t, as Rene Pinto was optioned back to Triple-A.

The impingement was only an issue on throws, and Mejia said he is still not sure of the origin. He played July 25 with no issues, making a strong throw to second, but woke up sore the next day.

“We didn’t know,” he said via team interpreter Manny Navarro. “But I’m trying to just forget about that now that I’m ready to go and just ready to play.”

The Rays are hoping for three more frontline players to return from injury around Aug. 20-22 — shortstop Wander Franco, outfielder Manuel Margot and outfielder/designated hitter Harold Ramirez.

The Rays on Friday also activated reliever Jimmy Yacabonis, claimed Thursday from the Marlins.

Ralph Garza Jr. was sent to Durham, the fifth time he has been optioned. Under new rules this year, that’s the limit for a season, so if he is called up again the Rays would have to expose him to waivers to send him down.

The Garza demotion also limits their roster maneuverability, as they have preferred that at least one of their eight relievers has options and thus is able to be sent down so they can summon a fresh arm when needed. Plus, JT Chargois, Nick Anderson and Yonny Chirinos are working their way back from injury.

“We do have a little less flexibility, and it’s going to get a little tricky to navigate as we get some guys coming back healthy,” Cash said. “But I’m sure we’ll find a way. I hope that it’s tricky, because if it’s not, that means we’re having more injured pitchers go on (the injured list).”

McClanahan ready to roll

In a season flush with success, All-Star Shane McClanahan had a relatively different experience Sunday — a rough outing, allowing five runs in 4-1/3 innings.

Now he has something else new to deal with — taking what he learned from the bad day and applying it to his next start, which is Saturday against the Tigers.

The lesson? “Just that baseball is a humbling game and you’ve got to keep working hard,” he said. “The second you think you’ve got it figured out, it’s going to bring you right back down. So, very excited for (Saturday).”

In consultation with pitching coach Kyle Snyder, McClanahan addressed some mechanical issues that may have been factors Sunday, specifically that he was “flying open a little bit too quick.” The fix, he said, is “just kind of staying closed and back, and just having good direction down on the mound.”

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The Rays saw 191 pitches from seven Tigers. ... Tampa-raised NASCAR driver Aric Almirola threw out the first pitch — a bit wide — to rep the Sunday race at Michigan International Speedway. Almirola said he played baseball until getting to Hillsborough High and chose to pursue racing. … Reliever Luke Bard, designated for assignment Monday, was claimed off waivers by the Yankees. … The Tigers will retire Lou Whitaker’s No. 1 in a ceremony before Saturday’s game.

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