Not one or two, but three players were nipped by the injury bug on Sunday. For the three players in question — Steven Souza Jr., James Loney, and Asdrubal Cabrera.
Souza Jr. left Sunday’s game in the third inning after a first inning collision with Athletics’ catcher Stephen Vogt at the plate. Although the X-Rays came back negative, it is uncertain whether he’ll be in the lineup at any point against the Mariners.
On the collision I kind of felt something and figured it would just go away, Souza told Matt Baker (Tampa Bay Times). Took some swings on deck. It was lingering a little bit, but nothing too severe. But on the check-swing, I felt the pain. We’re just being precautious.
Souza is listed as day-to-day.
Loney left the game after breaking his left middle finger on a headfirst slide, on a well executed double steal in the eighth inning. The first baseman was able to play defense in the ninth, however, his finger swelled up afterward. Although it was initially thought to be just a sprain, Loney was placed on the 15-day DL after an MRI showed a break. The first baseman is projected to miss four-to-six weeks, although he remains confident the Rays can be successful in the interim:
It’s going to take more than one guy to win the division and we’ve been doing that with all our guys; everybody’s been chipping in.
As for Cabrera, the shortstop left the game with what has been called a mild groin strain, after sustaining the injury trying to get back to second in the seventh inning. Cabrera started a double play in the sixth, where he lost his footing and extended his left leg toward the bag. One can’t help but wonder if that play may have agitated things, at least initially.
Leisurely turning double plays. pic.twitter.com/9sRpHx2b6a
— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) May 24, 2015
Cabrera downplayed the severity of the injury, saying:
I feel a little sore, but it’s more tightness, I think I’ll be all right in a couple of days.
Neither Souza nor Cabrera have been placed on the DL, and per Baker, Cabrera’s injury seems to be the least concerning of the three. I asked him (via Twitter) if the groin injury is still considered mild, to which he responded:
@3dorksatthebar Yes. Moral of the story: He says he should be fine in a day or two. Seems the least concerning of the three
— Matt Baker (@MBakerTBTimes) May 24, 2015
Further evaluations on Souza and Cabrera are expected on Monday.
To compensate for the injuries, the Rays made a few moves prior to Monday night’s game. First, the team optioned Preston Guilemt back to Triple-A Durham, opening a spot on the 25-man roster. Tim Beckham was recalled to fill the roster spot opened up by Loney’s placement on the DL, and the team also recalled Jake Elmore to fill the other open spot.
Per Marc Topkin (Tampa Bay Times), the plan is to use Logan Forsythe as the regular first baseman, with Rene Rivera and Tim Beckham filing in if needed.
The Rays can bounce back against Seattle, thus avoiding their longest skid since dropping four straight April 17-21. The question isn’t whether Tampa Bay’s pitching staff can stifle Nelson Cruz and company, rather can they put up runs against Roenis Elias, JA Happ, and Felix Hernandez.
Seattle has batted .226 while averaging just three runs over its last 11 games. Robinson Cano (5-32), Mike Zunino (4-24), Seth Smith (4-23) and Logan Morrison (5-35) are among those scuffling in the Mariers offense.
Too, Tampa Bay dropped four of seven meetings in 2014, including the last three at Tropicana by a combined 15-4 score.
Roenis Elias: Per Rotowire, Elias (1-1) spun 7.2 strong innings Wednesday in Baltimore, allowing just one run on six hits to come home with his first win of the year. He struck out four and didn’t walk a batter. The 26 year-old lefty surrendered four runs and five hits over 7-2/3 innings in a 7-4 win at Tropicana on June 7 last season. Interestingly enough, Elias is said to be a predictable pitcher, in that batters have a good sense when he is going to throw his breaking stuff. One of the culprits, Elias’s release points are all over the place. Against right handed hitters his curve and change are off by almost half a foot. Per Jeff Zimmerman (FanGraphs), the difference between the two pitches to lefties is almost five inches (.4 ft). Another culprit, pitch count patterns and situations. If the batter knows he’s going to get a curveball, especially in a traditional curveball count, he’s prone to sit on the pitch for a ball. It’ll be interesting to see if this hold true on Monday. Key matchups: Asdrubal Cabrera (2-4, 2B, RBI), Logan Forsythe (1-3), James Loney (1-3, HR, RBI), Evan Longoria (1-4, HR, 2 RBI), Rene Rivera (1-3, HR, RBI).
JA Happ: Per Rotowire, Thanks to a rain delay, Happ lasted only two innings Thursday in Baltimore, allowing four runs on four hits and two walks while striking out three. The Rays have a storied history against Happ, extending back to the ill-fated comebacker off the bat of Desmond Jennings which put him on the DL a few seasons back. Key matchups: Asdrubal Cabrera: (2-6, 2B, BB), Nick Franklin (1-2, 3B, RBI, BB), Kevin Kiermaier (1-1, 2 RBI), James Loney (7-16, 2 2B, RBI, BB), Evan Longoria (4-14, 2 2B, RBI, 2 BB).
Felix Hernandez: Per Rotowire, Hernandez had his worst outing of the year, going six innings and allowing four earned runs in a 4-2 loss to Boston on Saturday. He dropped to 6-1 with the effort. Still, King Felix continues to generate ground balls at an insane rate (61.1% GB% over the last 14 days) and he remains a model of durability — he hasn’t made less than 31 starts in any season dating back to 2006. As the saying goes: accept the best, expect the worst. Key matchups: David DeJesus (12-36, 4 2B, HR, 5 RBI, 3 BB), Logan Forsythe (2-7), Kevin Kiermaier (1-3), Evan Longoria (6-24, RBI, 3 BB).
— NPR’s To the Best of Our Knowledge explored the subject of baseball diplomacy on their most recent episode. The description from their website sums up the excellent piece: Rumors are flying that we’ll see a Major League baseball game in Havana next year. But that doesn’t account for the thorny problem of Cuban defectors now playing in America, or the crumbling infrastructure of Havana’s baseball stadiums. Check it out, it’s definitely worth your time.
— Tim Casey (Vice Sports) wrote a fantastic article about Rocco Baldelli, one of most beloved members of the Rays organization.
— Jordi Scrubbings opines that the Tampa Bay sports market is overstretched and over-saturated, writing, “According to the study, the Tampa Bay area is tied for the fifth most overextended market in professional sports.”
— Well-known St. Pete author Peter Golenbock offered a rather simple, Jeff Vinik-like suggestion for a way that Rays owner Stu Sternberg could turn things around in the stadium saga. I won’t ruin it for you…you’ll have to read the article yourself.
— Matt Moore threw a bullpen session on Monday. Manager Kevin Cash said he’ll likely pitch in an extended spring game again.