The Tampa Bay Rays were met with another round of injury news Monday. Just a few hours after Nick Franklin was told he would platoon second base with Logan Forsythe, the infielder suffered what he called a “severe” left oblique strain on the last swing of batting practice prior to the game. It is uncertain if Franklin underwent an MRI, or if he was diagnosed by Ron Porterfield, so the extent of the injury is unknown at the time of press.
Oblique injuries can take a long time to get over, in some cases more than a month. Continued attempts for a player push through an oblique injury will often lead to compensations by other muscle groups, which can then lead to other problems. Because of it, the Rays training staff is expected to have Franklin take his time recovering from the injury — something Franklin acknowledged,
I know they don’t want to rush it. It’s something if you rush it, it can probably end up making it worse. I’m just going based off them. …I just know I’m going to be in there for treatment every single day.
Franklin told reporters he “thinks Opening Day in could be in jeopardy,” when asked if the injury might delay the start of his season.
Manager Kevin Cash reiterated Franklin’s assessment, saying, “we’re not too optimistic that he’ll be ready for Opening Day.” Cash was also sympathetic toward Franklin who has been working hard up to this point,
I don’t think he ever had an Opening Day before. If he hasn’t, that stinks. The guy’s worked hard, and then he has that with two weeks left. That’s unfortunate.
Franklin was expected to platoon second base with Forsythe, depending upon the pitching matchup. The question begs, who then will fill the chasm? The team will likely go one of two routes:
- Plug the hole at second with Tim Beckham (who has the advantage of being on the 40-man roster), and add Jake Elmore or Alexi Casilla as bench depth.
- Plug the hole at second with either Elmore or Casilla.
The addition of Casilla to the roster wouldn’t be surprising, rather it would give Cash a little more flexibility with the lineup while Franklin mends. Yet a roster move to include either Elmore or Casilla comes with a caveat; the team would have to open up a spot on the 40-man since both infielders were non-roster invitees to Spring Training.
Both Elmore and Casilla are utility players who’ve fielded multiple positions, both in the major and minor leagues. The biggest difference between the two, however, Casilla has about 30 times more experience at second base. That experience goes a long way.
Sure, Elmore committed only one error in 118-2/3 innings of work. But when you extrapolate Casilla’s error total over the 3,513-1/3 innings he’s accrued at second, you get essentially the same percentage of errors per total number of innings of work — about 1%. Furthermore, Casilla saved 21 defensive runs in 427 total plays at second base, extending back to 2010. Compare that to Elmore’s -2 DRS.
Then there’s the question of batting. Casilla, like Franklin, is a switch hitter who could be used to face right-handed pitchers.
While Casilla hasn’t destroyed righties over his career, when compared to Elmore, the switch hitting utility player pans out to be a more dynamic hitter. He’s also performed closer to Franklin, who has slashed .218 BA/.289 OBP/.389 SLG/.678/.300 wOBA/90 wRC against righties over his short career.
It’s all a game of wait and see at the moment. There are bright sides though — at least we aren’t talking about another pitching injury, and at least there’s organizational depth to depend upon in the interim.
…Of other injuries
- Drew Smyly threw a bullpen session Monday, again focusing on fastballs. Cash said that Smyly “felt good” and is expected to throw another bullpen after two days’ rest.
- Ronald Belisario will throw his first bullpen session on Thursday. Cash told reporters that Belisario had been impressive throwing off flat ground, adding that Belisario told him he does not need a lot of work to become game-ready.
- Alex Colome gained back five of the 10 pounds he lost while he was in the hospital with pneumonia. He threw a 20-pitch bullpen session on Monday, and he said he felt good.
- Steven Souza returned to action Monday afternoon game. He, however, was hit by a pitch on his left wrist and left the game. It should be noted, Souza was scheduled to leave anyway. The Rays outfielder told reporters he was fine.
- Brandon Guyer had the day off due to a mild ankle sprain. He is slated to play in a Minor League game Wednesday, and is hoping to have six to nine at-bats.
- Rene Rivera took batting practice Monday, and is expected to return to action after Tuesday’s off-day.
- Alex Cobb said that he felt good, and is scheduled to visit team orthopedic doctor Koco Eaton on Tuesday.
- Jake McGee will throw a bullpen session in Port Charlotte Tuesday.
…Of roster moves
- OF Taylor Motter and INF Allan Dykstra have been reassigned to minor league camp, manager Kevin Cash said.