Meadows sees Opening Day as 'definitely doable,' but still cautious

April 4th, 2022

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- was cautiously optimistic Monday that he’ll be ready for Opening Day a day after exiting early at LECOM Park early due to bilteral quad tightness, as the Rays are hoping they won’t have to place him on the injured list to begin the season.

Meadows said he felt both of his quads tighten up during the Rays’ 9-2 win over the Pirates on Sunday in Bradenton, and rather than risk further injury, he decided to remove himself from the game after the first inning. The outfielder took Monday off as a full rest day, but the plan is for him to get back in the batter’s box to face right-hander Chris Mazza in live batting practice Tuesday morning.

“Obviously with Opening Day being close, I just felt like it was the best decision to come out, get treatment and take care of it,” Meadows said Monday morning. “I feel better than I thought I would, so that’s always a plus. We’ll just see where we go the next couple days.”

Manager Kevin Cash said at this point, he expects Meadows will be on the Rays’ Opening Day roster Friday against the Orioles at Tropicana Field. Rosters must be set by noon ET on Thursday.

Meadows said he felt like that was “definitely doable,” considering the improvement he already felt within 24 hours, but opted to take a more day-by-day approach.

“Today, kind of the biggest thing was seeing how I feel. If I felt worse, then I don’t think we’d be talking about Opening Day,” Meadows said. “But I feel good, better than expected for myself, so we’ll see where we’re at.”

Meadows said he felt his quads tighten up after running to first on a first-inning RBI single then running around left field, at which point he realized, “It’s not smart to try to push it.” But it might not have been anything Meadows did on the field that aggravated his quads. He thinks it might have been related to his trips to and from the ballpark this spring, as he has been commuting about an hour and 15 minutes each way from his Tampa-area home to Charlotte Sports Park every day in Spring Training.

“It could be attributed more to that drive, just being in the car for two and a half, three hours a day. That’s the only thing I can really think of,” Meadows said. “I went into yesterday feeling fine and everything was fine, then it just tightened up on me. Can’t really put a finger on it.”

Around the horn
• Josh Fleming, competing for a spot as a bulk-inning/long-relief option in the Opening Day bullpen, was only ticketed to work three innings in his start Monday against the Braves. Instead, the lefty was so efficient that he returned for a fourth inning in the Rays’ 8-2 loss at Charlotte Sports Park.

Fleming allowed two runs on three hits and recorded one strikeout, but his outing was most notable for its efficiency: It took him 41 pitches to record 11 outs, and 29 of those pitches were strikes.

“I feel really good. Arm felt good, body felt good,” Fleming said. “I was pretty surprised when [pitching coach Kyle] Snyder told me I could go back out there. … He wanted me to work on the cutter, curveball, changeup a little more, so that's pretty much all I was throwing. But they all felt really good.”

• Another highlight from Fleming was his defensive work. The quick-working lefty took a Travis d’Arnaud comebacker off the bottom of his right heel -- “where I didn’t feel it at all,” Fleming said -- but recovered quickly to cover first base and receive Yandy Díaz’s throw to record the last out of the second inning. As Cash put it, “You’re not going to see many better plays than what he made.”

“I had 1,000 people saying, ‘You good? You good?’” Fleming added, smiling. “Yeah, I’m good. If I wasn't good, I'd probably be on the ground, screaming.”

• Batting leadoff, second baseman Brandon Lowe reached safely against Braves starter Ian Anderson on a bunt single. He spoke with last week about his hopes for the season.

• The Rays’ Triple-A Durham affiliate will begin its season against Nashville at 7:35 p.m. ET on Tuesday. Relief prospect Calvin Faucher, who impressed with his dazzling curveball earlier this spring, is tentatively set to start as an opener, followed by right-hander Easton McGee.

Up next
The Rays will break camp and head north Tuesday after a 1:05 p.m. ET game against the Braves at CoolToday Park in North Port, Fla. Right-hander Corey Kluber is set to pitch for Tampa Bay, seemingly setting him up to start the Rays’ third game of the season on Sunday. After Tuesday’s game, they have only one more exhibition remaining -- a clash with the Phillies on Wednesday at Tropicana Field -- before Friday’s regular-season opener with the Orioles.