TORONTO —There is a chance the Rays could have Jose Siri back for next week’s opening playoff series, though possibly in a limited role as he recovers from a fractured right hand.
But they have reason to feel better about centerfield being in the hands of veteran Manuel Margot, who has been hitting extremely well since returning Sept. 15 from surgery to remove bone chips from his right elbow.
In 11 games, Margot is hitting .366 (15-for-41) with five doubles, seven RBIs and an .883 OPS.
“I’m glad he’s healthy now, because we do see the difference,” manager Kevin Cash said. “With the swing, there’s just a lot more intent that he can get into a baseball. He’s hitting balls as hard this last couple of weeks as he has all season long. He could definitely be a big help manning centerfield with Jose out.”
Margot had the surgery Aug. 16. In 85 games to that point, he was hitting .249 with a .654 OPS.
Cash said it’s easy to see how the limited mobility was an issue.
“I’m not exactly sure when his elbow really started to creep in, but he’s a tough guy, he’s going to play through it, and he’s kind of shown that over many years now,” Cash said. “So I’ve got a feeling he was lying to us for quite some time because he wanted to stay on the field.”
Margot hasn’t pinpointed a date when the issue started, but it’s clear by how much freer and easier his swing looks that he is healthy.
“It feels a lot better,” he said via team interpreter Manny Navarro. “It feels really good. Obviously before, I think I was forcing it when I wasn’t feeling good. But all I’m trying to do (now) is just compete.”
Siri sustained a non-displaced fracture on the bottom of his right hand when hit by a pitch on Sept. 11, with a rough best-case timeline to be ready next week. His latest checkup with specialist Dr. Doug Carlan on Wednesday went well.
“A good day for Siri. He had imaging, saw the doctor — very encouraged with what he saw,” Cash said. “So he will start doing some baseball activity (Thursday), maybe getting his arm going a little bit. I don’t know how much swinging, but more like just hand-strengthening stuff, but also throwing.”
If Siri can throw, it could create a situation where the Rays consider putting him on the roster just to play defense and/or pinch-run.
The Rays will also be watching the progress of lefty-swinging outfielder/designated hitter Luke Raley. He was placed on the injured list Sept. 21 after receiving an injection to help with a cervical strain that was a result of a freak batting practice collision on Sept. 16 with Navarro. Raley has been limited to rehab work, but Cash said he could start swinging over the weekend.
The 26-man Wild Card Series rosters are not due until 10 a.m. Tuesday. Given the uncertainty with Siri and Raley, Cash said he expects the Rays will go right up to the deadline.
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Diaz has a shot at batting title
Sidelined since leaving Sunday’s game with right hamstring tightness, Rays team MVP Yandy Diaz said he is eyeing a return to action Friday and hoping to play in two or three games against the Blue Jays to get his rhythm back at the plate.
He also has a chance to win the American League batting title, which would not only be a major personal accomplishment but a first for the Rays organization if he can catch Texas shortstop Corey Seager.
Through Wednesday, Seager had a five-point lead, .333 (154-for-463) to . 328 (171-for-522), with four games remaining. Diaz’s Rays have three.
Diaz, a career .278 hitter before this season, said he is pleased with his improvement but not paying much attention to the race.
“I honestly don’t even know what I’m hitting right now,’’ he said. “I don’t know what anyone else is hitting right now. I just try not to really think about the numbers.”
The Rays have reopened the upper deck at Tropicana Field for the entire postseason, with tickets going on sale Wednesday for AL Wild Card and Division Series home games. … Triple-A Durham, which was seeking a third straight league title, lost 7-0 at Norfolk (Orioles) Thursday in the third and decisive game of the International League championship series.
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