Amid a season-worst six-game skid, the Tampa Bay Rays are hopeful the midseason call-up of highly touted shortstop Wander Franco will provide a much-needed boost to get back on track.
Franco, ranked as baseball’s No. 1 prospect by MLB.com, learned he was being called up from Triple-A Durham late Sunday and is expected to make his major league debut when the Rays play host to their American League East rival Boston Red Sox in the first of a three-game series Tuesday night.
“(I’m thankful) for you guys, thank you to Coach, thank you for (being my) teammates – I’m so happy right now,” Franco told his Durham Bulls teammates after learning of his call-up in a video shared by the Rays on Twitter.”I liked playing with you guys – a very good team. Keep going – guys, I love you.”
Franco has posted impressive offensive numbers this season and throughout his three-year minor league career. The 20-year-old native of Bani, Dominican Republic, hit .315 with seven home runs and 35 RBIs in 39 games with Durham this year.
Signed by the Rays as an international free agent in 2017, Franco posted a blistering .332 batting average, hit 27 homers and drove in 145 RBIs across 214 minor league games in Tampa Bay’s farm system.
Franco’s bat could help spark a Rays lineup that ranked 12th out of 15 teams in the American League in batting average (.229), and eighth in OPS (.704), following Tampa Bay’s 6-2 loss in 10 innings at Seattle on Sunday. The Rays were outscored 23-13 by the Mariners during a four-game sweep over the weekend.
Andrew Kittredge (5-1, 1.34 ERA) will start Tuesday’s game in an opener role for Tampa Bay. The right-hander has pitched to a 2.53 ERA in 15 career appearances against Boston. Left-hander Ryan Yarbrough, who is 4-3 with a 4.14 ERA in 14 games (10 starts) this year, is expected to pitch the middle innings in relief of Kittredge.
The Red Sox enter play with a half-game lead over the Rays atop the AL East despite dropping two of three games at Kansas City over the weekend. Boston has played .500 baseball over its past 12 games.
“We’ve just gotta turn the page and get ready for Tampa,” said Red Sox starter Nathan Eovaldi, who gave up four runs (three earned) over four innings in a 7-3 loss to the Royals on Sunday. “Turn the page as fast as we can and get ready to compete.”
Red Sox left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez (5-4, 6.21 ERA) starts Tuesday’s opener in search of his first win since May 7. Rodriguez lost four straight starts from May 12-31 and did not factor in the decision in his three starts after that – all wins by the Red Sox.
Rodriguez has allowed four or more runs in six of his past seven starts. In nine career starts against Tampa Bay, he is 1-3 with a 5.44 ERA — his third-highest against an AL opponent.
Boston could be down a key player as hot-hitting second baseman Christian Arroyo left Sunday’s game with a right shin bone bruise. Arroyo’s X-ray exams were negative, and he will be re-evaluated after the team’s flight to Tampa.
–Field Level Media