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Avi '100 percent ready' to rejoin Rays' lineup

@zachsilver
August 24, 2019

BALTIMORE -- To the glowing smiles of his teammates and shouts of “Uncle” and “Tío” -- an homage to his Players’ Weekend nickname -- from across the room, Avisaíl García rejoined the Rays in Baltimore on Friday and was activated from the injured list after the 7-1 win over the

BALTIMORE -- To the glowing smiles of his teammates and shouts of “Uncle” and “Tío” -- an homage to his Players’ Weekend nickname -- from across the room, Avisaíl García rejoined the Rays in Baltimore on Friday and was activated from the injured list after the 7-1 win over the Orioles at Camden Yards.

“Yeah, he’s excited,” manager Kevin Cash said.

Garcia wrapped up a minimum stay on the 10-day injured list with a right oblique strain. He required just one test game with Triple-A Durham to make sure he was back to 100 percent, which he feels is the case. A 2-for-3 performance while slotted in at right field Thursday seemed to back up that belief.

“One hundred percent. One hundred percent ready,” Garcia said. “We’ll see what happens tomorrow … so I’m playing tomorrow.”

While disappointed the stay on the IL was needed, Garcia now looks back on it with a sort of tepid fondness. Oblique injuries can be tricky. One minor misstep can become much more serious, so taking a little time to make sure everything checked out was fine in his book.

“That’s the kind of injury that goes from zero to 100,” he said. “With one more swing, I could have lost the rest of the season. Now I’m good; now I’m healthy. So I will try to do my best for my teammates.”

An offseason signing, Garcia has been a hidden gem for a Rays team that is in the midst of a postseason race. Not only is his .794 OPS rivaled only by his 2017 All-Star campaign (.885), but his availability has allowed Cash to keep someone like Austin Meadows off his feet as the designated hitter more often.

"We missed his presence in the lineup," Cash said on Saturday. "He got hurt in San Diego right when the bats went quiet at the homestand. It’s not all on him, but [he's] certainly a veteran guy that has a lot of good numbers here in this ballpark and has hit well against the Orioles. We’ll insert him right back in there. He’s having a good year. Let’s see if we can get him to pick up right when he left off."

To make room on the roster, the Rays optioned outfielder Guillermo Heredia to Durham. They also recalled righty Austin Pruitt from Durham and optioned Aaron Slegers, who picked up his first career save with three innings on Friday, to the Bulls.

Banda back, but no rush
The Rays reinstated southpaw Anthony Banda (Tommy John surgery) from the 60-day IL Friday and optioned him to Durham, where he was rehabbing. Cash said he could see Banda, who was part of a three-team trade with the D-backs and Yankees in 2018, playing a role when rosters expand in September. But they also aren’t going to rush the lefty, who has had a Jekyll and Hyde experience since first pitching with Durham back on July 14.

“I think there’s a chance of it,” Cash said of Banda soon making his first big league appearance since May 2018. “With all of these guys, it’s really a mixed bag. One outing, it’s encouraging. One outing, it’s not coming out his best. But we really don’t value that -- the results -- too much. We know that it’s a long road back.”

To make room on the 40-man roster, Brandon Lowe, whose season was declared over Thursday after he suffered a quad strain while rehabbing with Durham on Wednesday, was transferred to the 60-day IL.

Rays detail Players’ Weekend swag
Maybe the only thing that brightened Garcia’s day more than his return to the team was the customized Players’ Weekend apparel waiting for him at his locker. For him, that came in the form of a bat decked out in the Venezuelan flag and its yellow, red and blue details.

“Everybody has the chance to represent their country,” Garcia said. “I think it is special. I just feel blessed.”

He was far from alone in that respect. The only thing more meticulous than Willy Adames’ (“THE KID”) pregame regimen was how he set up the photoshoot of his apparel. He got two pairs of customized cleats -- one that features the Dominican flag, and one that features some of his favorite cartoon characters, Tom and Jerry and the Flash.

Some had their personalized cleats done more at the last minute, such as with Mike Zunino’s (“Z”) University of Florida-inspired orange, blue and white cleats. Others toiled over it for a longer period of time, such as Emilio Pagan’s (“EMILIOOO”) cleats, which pay homage to the movie “A Night at the Roxbury.”