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Meadows avoids surgery for right thumb sprain

@juanctoribio
April 22, 2019

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays were hoping to receive good news after Austin Meadows saw a hand specialist Sunday, and the club got just that as the test results indicated that the right thumb sprain that landed the outfielder on the 10-day injured list won’t require surgery. “It was good

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays were hoping to receive good news after Austin Meadows saw a hand specialist Sunday, and the club got just that as the test results indicated that the right thumb sprain that landed the outfielder on the 10-day injured list won’t require surgery.

“It was good news,” Meadows said Monday. “Just a sprain, so nothing crazy serious.”

Meadows suffered the injury sliding into third base on a triple during Saturday’s loss to the Red Sox. There was concern that there would be ligament damage, which would’ve sidelined Meadows for a longer period of time. While there is no official timetable for Meadows’ return, the team hopes that the outfielder will only be sidelined for a couple of weeks.

“Three weeks would be fair,” said Rays manager Kevin Cash. “Shut down for 10 days, see where his strength is at. The good thing is he can keep his legs in shape and then as long as the strength is there, that’s when he starts swinging again.”

Meadows has played a key role in the Rays’ success this season, hitting .351/.422/.676 with six home runs, three stolen bases, 19 RBIs and a 1.097 OPS in 20 games. The 23-year-old is coming off a week where he earned American League Player of the Week honors for the first time in his big league career, hitting .545 for the week with four home runs and 12 RBIs.

While Meadows’ injury is a big blow to the Rays lineup, the news that the outfielder won’t need surgery is a positive outcome for Tampa Bay in this situation.

“The S-word is scary, so, you know, luckily we don’t have to do that,” Meadows said. “We’ll just have to rehab it and let the swelling go down, so that’s a big deal.”

With Meadows out of the lineup, Brandon Lowe was the team’s leadoff hitter for Monday’s game against the Royals. Lowe and Joey Wendle could get more time atop the lineup as Meadows rehabs. Lowe contributed to the the Rays' 6-3 win Monday with an RBI double in the sixth inning.

“[Brandon] did enough in Spring Training and got some leadoff reps,” Cash said. “With Austin out, getting him out there, the thought was to get him as many at-bats as possible.”

Zunino returns from paternity list

Before Monday’s game, the Rays activated catcher Mike Zunino from the paternity list and optioned catcher Nick Ciuffo to Triple-A Durham. Zunino missed the last three games as he and his wife, Alyssa, welcomed the birth of their first son. The couple returned home with their newborn, Rhett Michael Zunino, and everyone is healthy.

“There’s nothing like it. It was the greatest day of my life,” Zunino said. “It’s one of those things where it’s a very special moment. It’s really cool to be able to experience that. Fortunate enough to make it and not miss it, you know, since you never know during baseball season. But everyone is doing well. It’s a very cool thing.”

Zunino returned to the lineup in a big way, hitting his first home run of the season -- a go-ahead two-run shot -- in the seventh inning of the win.

Choi available Monday

Ji-Man Choi wasn't in the Rays’ starting lineup for the second consecutive game after leaving Saturday’s contest against the Red Sox with left calf tightness, but Cash said that the first baseman was available off the bench Monday.

“[He] feels much better,” Cash said. “Totally available today. It’d be nice, probably, to give him an extra day, but if there’s a situation where we need his bat, we’ll use it.”

Choi is hitting .286/.387/.444 with one home run in 19 games this season.

Juan Toribio covers the Rays for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @juanctoribio.