Rays hope to have Wander Franco for opener vs. Twins


The Tampa Bay Rays have something of a score to settle when they open a three-game series with Minnesota Twins in Friday in St. Petersburg, Fla.

Despite going 6-3 on the road from Aug. 6-15, the American League East-leading Rays (84-50) dropped two of three in Minneapolis against the Twins to close out the road swing.

In Tampa Bay’s 4-0 home defeat to the Boston Red Sox on Thursday, Wander Franco stretched his on-base streak to 33 games with a seventh-inning leadoff walk, but it was what went on during the trip to the plate that caused concern.

The rookie shortstop — who tied Mel Ott (1929) and Arky Vaughan (1932) for the third-longest such streak by a player age 20 or younger — winced and appeared uncomfortable during the plate appearance.

Rays manager Kevin Cash credited Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez with alerting the home dugout that something wasn’t right with Franco, who soon left the game with what was announced as a headache.

“We’re going to monitor him for concussion symptoms,” said Cash, citing a hard slide into home in the Rays’ Wednesday loss. “We don’t really have any answers right yet.”

Cash will hand the ball Friday to Michael Wacha (2-4, 5.70 ERA), who will be making his 19th start and 24th appearance overall.

The right-hander is 1-1 with a 7.15 ERA in two career starts against Minnesota.

In their only visit to Florida this season, the Twins (58-75) are riding a low after a 3-0 home loss to the Chicago Cubs on Wednesday and the news of staff ace Kenta Maeda’s season-ending surgery.

Maeda — runner-up in AL Cy Young Award voting in 2020 — underwent Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, which ended his 2021 campaign and casts doubt on his return next season.

The Twins are hopeful for an earlier return for Maeda, 33, whose season was a far cry from a year ago, when he went 6-1 with a 2.70 over 66 2/3 innings.

He slipped this season to a 6-5 mark, posting a career-worst 4.66 ERA in 21 starts.

However, Dr. Keith Meister added a brace during the surgery, with the hope being that it stabilizes the area and has the Japanese pitcher on the mound in nine to 12 months instead of the standard 12 to 16.

Olympics Team USA ace Joe Ryan — a top Rays prospect acquired by the Twins in the trade for slugger Nelson Cruz on July 22 — made his major league debut Wednesday and slid into the rotation with Maeda’s absence, giving the club a glimpse of 2022.

Even though the right-hander took the loss in a 3-0 home defeat to the Chicago Cubs — the Twins managed just two hits — Ryan baffled the Cubs at times while surrendering three runs on three hits in five innings. He struck out five and walked one.

Despite the bad news earlier in the day regarding Maeda and the evening’s loss, Minnesota manager Rocco Baldelli saw much to be positive about in Ryan’s debut.

“He looked very comfortable. He looked unrattled by anything,” Baldelli said. “Not every guy, especially in your major league debut, is going to be able to relax and just continue to do his job like that.”

Minnesota’s Randy Dobnak (1-6, 7.83 ERA) will make his sixth start of the season Friday and first career appearance against Tampa Bay.

The 26-year-old right-hander was activated from the 60-day disabled list on Wednesday after recovering from a strained right middle finger. Dobnak gave up a total of one run in 7 2/3 innings in two recent minor league rehab starts.

–Field Level Media

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