Rays’ Wander Franco declares himself ready for opener

Notebook | The shortstop, who missed the last three games of spring training with quad soreness, feels he can play Thursday.
Wander Franco, seen here earlier this spring, should be at shortstop Thursday, manager Kevin Cash says, as long as there are no more setbacks this week.
Wander Franco, seen here earlier this spring, should be at shortstop Thursday, manager Kevin Cash says, as long as there are no more setbacks this week. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]
Published March 27

TAMPA — Wander Franco was upbeat Monday morning. The Rays shortstop, who was scratched from Saturday’s game with a tight right quad, said he expects to play on opening day.

“I feel good, thank God, and I’m ready to start on Thursday,” Franco said via Rays interpreter Manny Navarro.

Manager Kevin Cash was pleased to hear that and said they expect him to play shortstop Thursday if everything continues to progress.

“That’s great. I certainly hope he’s right,” Cash said. “... He came in good spirits today, got his treatment, felt very strong. So very encouraged by that.”

Franco, who has had a history of leg issues, said he felt the quad tightness during Friday’s game against the Mets.

“My first at-bat when I hit a ground ball to the pitcher, when I took off that’s when I felt it a little bit,” he said. “... I was indecisive if I should say something or not and then obviously at the end I decided to say something.”

Franco spent most of last June on the injured list with a right quad strain. Tightness in his right hamstring sidelined him in September 2021. This winter he focused on being more flexible and durable.

“I prepared really well during the offseason and I think I feel really well, but I think it’s more just tight, i don’t think it’s too much more of an injury,” Franco said. “So that’s why I’m not too worried about it.”

Delivery date

Zach Eflin is scheduled to be the starter on Saturday, the second game of the season. There had been concern earlier in spring as the due date for his wife to give birth to twins was next week, but the couple announced that their daughters arrived a little early. Hallie Laine and Austen Renae were born last week and are doing well in NICU.

And the dad of three now is preparing for his first start with the Rays.

“He threw today in Disney. (Pitching coach) Kyle (Snyder) was over there with him, said it’s as good as stuff that he’s had,” Cash said. “He kind of like kicked it in another gear as he was getting closer to making his start. So, babies are healthy, which is awesome. His wife, Lauren, is doing well. … So all good thoughts that way and foresee him pitching Saturday for us.”

Game details: Yankees 8, Rays 4

Christian Bethancourt, who missed most of spring training while playing for Panama in the World Baseball Classic, hit his first spring training home run. … Jose Siri, who stole home over the weekend, swiped two more bases. … Kevin Kelly, who kept the secret from everyone (for weeks) that he had made the big league club, worked two innings. He allowed two runs on three hits. He did not walk a batter and struck out four.


The Rays sent Jonathan Aranda down to Triple-A Durham to make up for lost time. “Aranda is a little bit of a unique situation that he missed so much time during the (World Baseball Classic), didn’t get to play a ton in the WBC, so we tried to rush some (at-bats) to get him back,” Cash said. “He can hit. He’s kind of checked a lot of boxes offensively at the Triple-A level. If he can get to that comfort zone again over some consistent reps in Durham, I think we’ll see a guy that can help us.” … Vidal Brujan was also sent to Triple-A, with the goal of working on his versatility. “He’s gonna play short, second, centerfield. That’s a pretty special thing to be able to do in this game,” Cash said. “I thought that Brujan, his work was better this year and want to see him get off to a good start as well.”

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Times staff writer Marc Topkin contributed to this report.

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