BOSTON — Outfielder Randy Arozarena and first baseman Yandy Diaz were feeling better Tuesday, manager Kevin Cash said, but not good enough to be in the Rays’ lineup.
Arozarena has been out of action since leaving Friday’s game with right quad tightness. Diaz left Sunday’s game with right hamstring tightness.
“We’re trying to take care of them,” Cash said.
Arozarena approached Cash on the flight to Boston Monday afternoon and said he wanted to play Tuesday, but Cash said the team decided to give him one more day. Cash said Diaz “feels considerably better (Tuesday)” and seems likely to return to action in the next couple of days. Temperatures in the 50s also factored into the decision.
Though technically still alive in the race for the American League East title, the Rays appear to be prioritizing health and rest for the playoffs, as they fielded what could be termed an interesting lineup.
It included Jonathan Aranda leading off, Curtis Mead playing second base for the first time and Junior Caminero, the 20-year-old top prospect, getting a start at third base after two appearances at designated hitter.
All three contributed to the 9-7 win over Boston. “Tremendous job today,” said veteran Manuel Margot, via team interpreter Manny Navarro. “Those guys can really help us out a lot.”
Cash said it was important to get a look at some of the team’s young players, as the Rays will have to make decisions on their postseason roster. Plus, it will give the players a chance to build some confidence.
“We know they’re good players,” Cash said. “We want to get them reps here over the next five days just to get them comfort and find if there’s a way that they can contribute to our postseason hopes and play well for us. It’d be better off to get them in these types of settings right now.”
Cash also said reliever Robert Stephenson, sidelined since Friday with a stiff neck, was “doing much, much better,” and the team is “encouraged by that.”
Rule 5 rookie reliever Kevin Kelly has done a lot for the Rays this season, working a team relief-high 65⅓ innings over 56 games, posting a 5-2 record and 3.17 ERA with one save, working anywhere from the third to the ninth inning.
He also has been a good sport about playing along with a series of pranks staged by his veteran teammates, including making him wear cowboy boots, jeans and a hat on the field for pregame work in Texas; and having “Son” and “Father” over his and veteran reliever Jake Diekman’s lockers in Miami.
Sunday brought another memorable moment, as the Rays had a full Baker Mayfield uniform sent over by the Bucs for Kelly, then had him run out of the dugout — smoke machine engaged, Fox NFL theme music playing — onto the field.
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“It goes without saying — we’re just ready to go,” Kelly said. “It’s football season.”
Kelly said he didn’t play football growing up and doesn’t watch much now, but he was OK with playing along, saying Diekman was mostly behind it. “It’s fun,” he said. “Keeps things interesting. Always something new when I come in.”
Tickets for potential Wild Card Series and Division Series home games will go on sale Wednesday at 10 a.m. … Reliever Trevor Kelley, who was designated for assignment Friday to make room on the 40-man roster for Caminero, cleared waivers and accepted an outright assignment to stay with Triple-A Durham. … Fans who attended Sunday’s final regular-season home game got a surprise, a free yellow T-shirt with the “Here to Stay” logo the team introduced last week when announcing plans to build a new stadium in downtown St. Petersburg. ... With three more runs Tuesday, the Rays have scored 110 in first innings, most in the AL.
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