Rays expect to see Taylor Walls in lineup this week

Notes | The infielder could be back from his oblique strain as soon as Thursday. Plus, Osleivis Basabe does his homework, and roster cuts are on the way.
Rays infielder Taylor Walls, who is recovering from an oblique strain, warms up on the field before an exhibition game against the Atlanta Braves Friday at Tropicana Field.
Rays infielder Taylor Walls, who is recovering from an oblique strain, warms up on the field before an exhibition game against the Atlanta Braves Friday at Tropicana Field. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published Mar. 12|Updated Mar. 12

PORT ST. LUCIE — The Rays expect to have Taylor Walls back in a game sometime this week. The infielder has been out with an oblique strain since the start of spring training.

The hope is that Walls will play Thursday, when the Rays have split-squad games against the Braves and Twins.

“We’ve got him circled around that 16th date. So, he’s progressing well,” manager Kevin Cash said before Sunday’s 10-4 win over the Mets at Clover Park. “He’s on the field taking some batting practice, some ground balls and stuff, but he’s feeling very, very good.”

Thursday would be exactly two weeks before opening day on March 30, which the Rays feel would be plenty of time to get him the work he needs without rushing him back.

“We’re certainly getting to a point like we need to get him some reps, and we’re not going to run them out there every day to get him caught up with that bat,” Cash said. “So (he’ll) play, have an off day, play, off, play. It’ll be a situation like that.”

Cash said right-hander Calvin Faucher, who also began the spring sidelined with an oblique strain, threw his second live batting practice this weekend. He is scheduled to pitch in Tuesday’s game against the Twins.

“He looked outstanding,” Cash said.

Elite prospect

Osleivis Basabe had a single Sunday, another day in which the utility infielder showed off his offseason work. Basabe is batting .500 with a home run, eight RBIs and two stolen bases through 10 games while playing second base, third base and shortstop.

While that versatility certainly plays into the Rays’ plans, it’s something that takes a lot of work. Basabe gets to the park early, putting in extra defensive reps at each position, learning how to get good reads of the ball off the bat from each angle, and working on his bat.

Cash and the Rays’ front office have noticed the work paying off, something that makes Basabe proud.

“Obviously, a couple of years ago, I was less than an elite baseball player,” he said. “Right now, I consider myself that, and it’s showing out on the field.”

So much that Cash calls him a highlight of spring training so far.

“He’s been just a huge bright spot,” Cash said. “It’s not just that he’s getting hits, he’s going up there and driving balls, which is really, really encouraging.”

Game details; Rays 10, Mets 4

Niko Hulsizer hammered two homers to lead a lineup full of prospects in a Rays rout. Hulsizer’s first home run, off Carlos Carrasco, was a line drive to left-center that left the ballpark quickly. His second, in the seventh, crashed into the roof over the centerfield camera. Kyle Manzardo also homered.

“It’s good to get offensive performance by multiple people, and certainly Niko and Manzardo,” Cash said. “Niko drove the ball well. Those were long home runs.” Hulsizer finished with three hits in three at-bats.

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With Panama being eliminated from the World Baseball Classic on Saturday, the Rays are expecting to get starting catcher Christian Bethancourt back sometime this week. … Cash said the team expects to make roster moves at the beginning of the week to open up at-bats and innings in Grapefruit League games for big-leaguers.

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