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Rays activate Harold Ramirez; Wander Franco leaves rehab game with soreness

Ramirez, sidelined since breaking his right thumb last month, returned to the lineup Tuesday. Franco batted twice for Triple-A Durham before being taken out.
The Rays' Harold Ramirez (43) reacts after he is hit on the hand by a pitch from Baltimore Orioles pitcher Jordan Lyles (28) during a game on July 17 at Tropicana Field.
The Rays' Harold Ramirez (43) reacts after he is hit on the hand by a pitch from Baltimore Orioles pitcher Jordan Lyles (28) during a game on July 17 at Tropicana Field. [ JEFFEREE WOO | Times ]
Published Aug. 16|Updated Aug. 17

NEW YORK — The excitement the Rays had over getting outfielder/first baseman Harold Ramirez back from the injured list sooner than expected was tempered Tuesday night when shortstop Wander Franco left his first rehab game with soreness in his surgically repaired right hand.

Franco batted twice as the designated hitter for Triple-A Durham at Norfolk. He drew a walk and struck out, taking an awkward-looking swing, and didn’t bat again. Rays manager Kevin Cash did not seem overly concerned and said Franco could return to the Bulls’ lineup as soon as Wednesday.

Franco was playing for the first time since July 12 surgery to repair the right hamate bone he broke on a swing three days earlier.

“I’m very confident that he’s fine,” Cash said. “Wander really wants to play bad. I think it’s just some general soreness. We’ll see what the trainer says. But (I) don’t anticipate too much from that.”

Franco was expected to play this week with Durham and, if all goes well, rejoin the Rays during the weekend or early next week.

Ramirez, whose right thumb was fractured when he was hit by a pitch on July 17, started his rehab on Sunday and was expected to play another couple of games with Durham. But Cash said Ramirez has the kind of swing that doesn’t require much work, so the Rays decided to accelerate his return, perhaps even more with the Yankees starting lefty Nestor Cortes on Tuesday.

A key to the decision, it turned out, was Cash calling Ramirez and outfielder Manuel Margot Monday as the players drove together from Durham, North Carolina, to Norfolk, Virginia, on the team off day, asking each how he was doing and about the other.

“Manny said, “Yeah, (Ramirez) is ready to go. He hit three line drives, so he’s ready to go,’” Ramirez recounted. “Then (Monday) night, right after the game, (Cash) called me and said, ‘Do you feel good?’ And I said, ‘Yes.’ And he said, “Ok, come here.’”

So, who actually made the decision?

“Ultimately, Manny did,” Cash joked.

Ramirez started at designated hitter, batting third, and went 1-for-4. He said his thumb feels good with no soreness. He said he slightly changed his grip on the bat — moving it more into the palm of his hand — and is using a different thumb guard. To make room, outfielder Luke Raley was optioned to Durham.

Margot, out since late June with a patellar tendon strain in his right knee, went 1-for-3 with a walk and scored from first on a double Tuesday in his fifth fifth rehab game. He is slated for a couple more, then to rejoin the Rays Saturday, the first day he is eligible to be reinstated from the 60-day disabled list.

The Lowe down

Brandon Lowe, who missed the Saturday-Sunday games with a sore right shoulder that required a cortisone shot, didn’t start Tuesday as Cash went with all right-handed or switch-hitters against Cortes. He grounded out as a pinch-hitter in the eighth, extending his skid to 1-for-25. He is expected to be in the lineup Wednesday and play second base for the first time since Aug. 10 in Milwaukee.

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