Rays in wait-and-see mode for Meadows

Pitching rotation vs. Yankees for ALDS still being finalized

October 2nd, 2020

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays are still talking through multiple roster decisions for their American League Division Series showdown against the Yankees at Petco Park in San Diego, but a lot of the conversation will be centered around the availability of their All-Star outfielder.

, who has been on the injured list since Sept. 18 with a Grade 2 left oblique strain, is progressing quickly and could be an option in the ALDS. Originally, manager Kevin Cash said the team would have to play “really, really well” and prolong its season in order for Meadows to have a chance at returning in 2020.

“I think we’re all very encouraged where Austin is right now,” Cash said Friday.

Meadows took part in Friday’s workout at Tropicana Field and was seen tracking pitches during reliever Shane McClanahan’s bullpen session. Meadows didn’t take any swings, though, which was by design. He also did some light cardio work in the outfield and sprinted through the bases a couple of times.

The next step is trying to get Meadows some live at-bats over the next couple of days.

“He did his work, and we’re hopeful that maybe he faces some live pitching tomorrow,” Cash said. “We didn’t want to push it today, but if you asked him, he would’ve said that he wanted to. And then we’ll use our eyes. We don’t have the ramping up through games, so the best we have is sim games and some live at-bats.”

Meadows’ availability would be a welcome sign for the Rays. The All-Star hit 33 home runs in a breakout season in 2019, but he has struggled throughout the '20 season. Meadows hit .205 with four home runs in 36 games, but there’s no denying that he gives Tampa Bay yet another presence in its lineup. The Rays went 23-10 with Meadows in the starting lineup.

Pitching plans
The Yankees named Gerrit Cole their starter for Game 1 on Monday, but the Rays still need at least another day to talk about their options. Cash said the team will talk about it on Friday and will likely announce the pitching plans for the first couple of games on Saturday.

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In the Wild Card Series, Tampa Bay went with in Game 1, in Game 2 and was slated to pitch Game 3, but he went unused because of the two-game sweep.

“We’re getting close,” Cash said, when asked if he had set his rotation. “This gives us a good opportunity for everyone to weigh in and check on how everybody is feeling.”

Morton hasn’t pitched since Sept. 25 against the Phillies and theoretically could have 11 days between starts if he’s slotted to pitch Game 3 on Wednesday. That’s not a concern for Cash and the Rays.

“I think he’s going to be that much more fresher and feel good,” Cash said. “Not really concerned about the layoff. I’m guessing he’ll take the layoff to be able to provide a little more when we slot him into the rotation.”

Aside from setting the rotation, the Rays will also have to decide how many pitchers they want to carry in the ALDS. Having five consecutive games creates a challenge for both teams and will test the depth of the bullpen. Tampa Bay will likely go with at least 14 pitchers, with the possibility of carrying a 15th in order to remain flexible.