BALTIMORE — Having spent seven years in the minors, including the last three at Triple A, Tristan Gray learned to stop dwelling on whether he would ever get the chance to play in the big leagues.
So early Saturday morning, when he came face to face with Durham manager Michael Johns, who was at Gray’s apartment to deliver the news, the 27-year-old wasn’t sure if it was real.
“I missed about seven calls, so I woke up to my manager hammering my door,” Gray recalled. “It felt like a dream. I opened the door, my contacts weren’t in, so he’s blurry. And I’m just like, ‘Is this happening?’ He’s like, ‘Yeah, man, you’re going.’
“And so I said, ‘Can you pinch me real quick? Because I am sleeping for sure.’ ”
The rest of the conversation, and the next few hours, were a blur. Somehow Gray shared the news, and some tears, over the phone with his parents in Houston and made plans for them to quickly fly to Baltimore, packed up his stuff, caught flights to Charlotte and Baltimore, and made it to Camden Yards for batting practice.
A couple hours later, with his parents and grandmother in the stands, Gray played in his first big-league game. He took over at first base for Yandy Diaz in the sixth and popped up, on the first pitch, in his only at-bat in the eighth.
The Rays turned to Gray because shortstop Taylor Walls headed back to St. Petersburg early Saturday morning to be with his wife, Hallie, for the birth of their second child, a son.
Walls was placed on the paternity list and is expected to rejoin the team Tuesday. To open a spot for Gray on the 40-man roster, infielder Greg Jones was recalled, then placed on the 60-day injured list with a right hamstring strain.
Gray has been in the Rays’ system since being acquired as a second-year minor-leaguer from Pittsburgh in a February 2018 trade that saw the Rays give up Corey Dickerson, and he developed into an impressive power hitter at Durham, hitting 33 homers with 89 RBIs last season, and 28 and 91 so far this season.
He also was a favorite of staff and teammates along the way. That was evident by the parade of people coming up to his locker Saturday afternoon. “Couldn’t have asked for a better time to come up,” he said.
Two impressive streaks by Rays relievers ended on Saturday when Erasmo Ramirez replaced starter Tyler Glasnow in the fifth inning and allowed the O’s to score two. That ended a 19 1/3-inning scoreless stretch by Rays relievers and a 36-inning streak without an earned run, which was second longest in team history.
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Margot on the mend
Outfielder Manuel Margot was excited to be back with the Rays after missing a month following surgery to remove bone chips from his right elbow. And he felt even better to be playing in key September games, getting three hits in Friday’s win. “Tremendous,” he said via team interpreter Manny Navarro. “I was a little anxious to get out here, and I’m glad I was able to help out the team.”
With centerfielder Jose Siri out at least the rest of the regular season with a broken right hand, the Rays are obviously happy to have Margot back and feeling good. “He looked very comfortable, looked healthy,” manager Kevin Cash said. “We saw him for the last month before he went on the IL, he was really struggling, hurt and he just wasn’t himself. So really encouraged by that.”
Lesson learned for Mead
Rookie Curtis Mead said he knew even before he got to the dugout how bad of a mistake he made Wednesday in not running all out to first base after grounding a ball that deflected toward third, and that the Twins turned it into a rally-killing, fifth inning-ending double play.
“I thought as soon as they didn’t field the ball cleanly and went to third that that was kind of it, but you can’t assume,” Mead said
“Total brain fart. Felt terrible. To be able to win (the game) definitely helped my mind a little bit. Had we lost, I would have felt a to worse. It won’t happen again.”
Cash on Luke Raley, who was scratched from the lineup after a batting practice collision with Manny Navarro, the Spanish language interpreter who also helps the hitting coaches: “He’s doing OK. We’ll continue to check on him and then we’ll see what we’ve got (Sunday).” ... Radio broadcaster Andy Freed, out since Aug. 25 with a back issue, is targeting a Tuesday return. ... There is an 80% chance of rain Sunday in the Baltimore area. ... Brandon Lowe played in his 500th career game. ... After delivering the big three-run homer Friday, Harold Ramirez is now 21-for-53 in his career as a pinch hitter with 15 RBIs.
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