Tampa Bay Rays: Health Issues Becoming Worrisome

Feb 18, 2017; Port Charlotte, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays center fielder Colby Rasmus (28) poses for a photo during photo day at Charlotte Sports Park. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 18, 2017; Port Charlotte, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays center fielder Colby Rasmus (28) poses for a photo during photo day at Charlotte Sports Park. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

Opening Day is two-weeks away, and the Tampa Bay Rays still have some players that are dealing with lingering health issues that could cause a kink into the opening day roster.

One month into Spring Training and the Tampa Bay Rays are still hopeful that a couple of players that had surgery since the end of last season will make their debuts in the next few days. However, as time progresses, there remains that possibility that it will not happen and at the same time they could start the season on the disabled list.

The Tampa Bay Rays signed outfielder Colby Rasmus to handle the starting duties in leftfield and as viable depth in centerfield to spell Kevin Kiermaier, however Rasmus is still recovering from offseason hip and core muscle surgery and has just started taking batting practice and running.

Meanwhile, the Rays are taking their due diligence working Rasmus back into action and though there is a chance that he could make his spring debut sometime over the course of the next week or so, it is more likely that Rasmus will open the season on the disabled list.

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Should Rasmus begin the season on the DL; the Rays have numerous options they can go with in leftfield. There is Corey Dickerson who manned the position last season, but is defensively challenged and should stick to being the DH, which are the Rays plans for him.

Another option is Mallex Smith, the speedster acquired from the Mariners who strutted his defensive skills against the Twins this past week when he robbed a potential home run off the bat of Joe Mauer. Mallex was slowed to start the Grapefruit season due to a strained oblique, but responded well and returned to action at the beginning of the month.

Continuing with the Tampa Bay Rays options are Nick Franklin, who is having an outstanding spring and proved last season that he is capable of handling the outfield, but I am not sure he could do it on an everyday basis. Franklin is better off used in a utility role, then inserting him into an everyday player.

The remaining options come down to Tim Beckham, who is adjusting to the outfield, and non-roster invitees Rickie Weeks Jr. who played the majority of his 2016 season in the outfield with Arizona and Shane Peterson, signed this offseason to add outfield depth, primarily to Triple-A Durham.

Also slow to recovery is first baseman Logan Morrison following his season-ending wrist surgery. Morrison who was re-signed by the Rays after a stint on the free agent market, finally made his spring game debut playing the field Saturday against the Blue Jays after a couple of games as the DH. He had been experiencing some pain while throwing, but not batting.

Bill Chastain of MLB.com writes that Morrison said he still “feels” pain on “certain throws, it’s much better than it was. I don’t know if it gets irritated, and it’s like a scab you’re picking or not. I think it’s just something you have to do.”

While Morrison is back, though not at 100 percent playing the field because of the discomfort catching the ball, the Rays are likely to go with Franklin, Beckham and or Weeks to begin the season. It is unlikely the Morrison will begin the season on the DL, he’ll just be limited to playing the field.

As a last resort, Brad Miller could also see some action at first – though unlikely as the Rays are clearly focused with him at second base and the same for could be said for using him at shortstop.

Shortstop Matt Duffy who was acquired at the trade deadline from the San Francisco Giants for Matt Moore underwent season-ending surgery on his Achilles heel in early September. It was expected that he would be ready not only for the start of spring training but also for the start of the season.

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Unfortunately, Duffy is a slow healer and though manager Kevin Cash is hopeful that he can make his spring debut relatively soon, each day away from game action is a day closer to starting the season on the DL.

Duffy has been taking batting practice and working on the field, where he has been taking ground balls and doing other fielding drills – however, the fielding drills are at a very low intensity level as not to put extra stress on the heel.

He has yet to field any grounders that would be like a game situation that would require quick, sharp turns and movements nor has he done any running at full-speed.

As always, the Rays medical staff will be cautious and will continue to work closely with Duffy, following his lead on a daily basis as to when they will be able to amp up his workouts, getting him ready for game situations and hopefully into a Grapefruit League game.

In the interim, Tim Beckham is looking more and more as if he will open the season as the starting shortstop. Beckham has been outstanding this spring, offensively and defensively and to add additional versatility the outfield has been added to his repertoire.

In 10 games this spring, Beckham’s line .348/.483/.739 includes one home run and three RBIs. His six walks lead the team and is tied with Rickie Weeks Jr. with four doubles. Defensively, he has committed just two errors (1 each at short and third) while logging 48 innings between second, third, short and the outfield.

Next: Rays Close to Extension with Kevin Kiermaier

In what could be his last chance to prove that he belongs, Beckham looks as though he is finally seizing the opportunity to show the Rays that he can be the player that they envisioned.