ST. PETERSBURG — While continuing to wait for news on the availability of All-Star shortstop Wander Franco, the Rays took a blow to their planned infield for next season.
Versatile infielder Taylor Walls underwent right hip surgery, the team announced Monday, and his status for opening day is uncertain. That likely will force the Rays to make a move to acquire an infielder during the winter.
Walls had the operation to relieve discomfort from an impingement and repair a labral tear, according to the team. It was performed Friday by Dr. J.W. Thomas Byrd at the Nashville Hip Institute.
“He is expected to return to participating in baseball activities in February,” the team said. “His readiness for opening day will be determined later in the rehab process once baseball activity is resumed and an accurate timeline can be established.”
Rays manager Kevin Cash said he is “optimistic” Walls could be back around opening day.
“If he’s running before he comes into spring training, that would be a very good sign,” Cash said. “But I think we’ll know more in a month.”
Still, that leaves the Rays thin at shortstop heading into the offseason.
Franco has not played since Aug. 12, when allegations of an inappropriate relationship with a minor began to circulate online. He is on indefinite administrative leave as MLB and the justice department in his native Dominican Republic investigate.
There have been no updates on either investigation, but it’s possible Franco could face a suspension under the MLB and union’s joint Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Policy.
The Rays’ lack of depth at shortstop was evident in August, when Franco was placed on leave with Walls already on the injured list with an oblique strain.
The team called up Osleives Basabe and Vidal Brujan in an attempt to fill the gap. It also tried moving third basemen Isaac Paredes and Curtis Mead there.
Walls, a finalist for the Gold Glove as a utility player, was rated a plus-10 in Defensive Runs Saved. He hit .201 with a .305 on-base percentage, .333 slugging percentage and 22 stolen bases. He was limited to 99 games due to elbow, back and groin issues, in addition to the oblique injury.
Carson Williams, the young minor league shortstop ranked as the second-best prospect in the Rays’ system, is not considered a possible replacement. The free-agent market is weak for shortstops, with Paul DeJong and Amed Rosario leading the list.
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