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Morton to start AL Wild Card Game vs. A's

Diaz is activated from IL and inserted into lineup as DH, leadoff hitter
@juanctoribio
September 29, 2019

TORONTO -- It wasn’t much of a surprise, but now it’s official: Charlie Morton will be the Rays’ starter on Wednesday in the American League Wild Card Game against the A’s at the Coliseum, manager Kevin Cash said Sunday. Morton was the obvious choice to start the game. He started

TORONTO -- It wasn’t much of a surprise, but now it’s official: Charlie Morton will be the Rays’ starter on Wednesday in the American League Wild Card Game against the A’s at the Coliseum, manager Kevin Cash said Sunday.

Morton was the obvious choice to start the game. He started 33 games this season and was one of just three Rays players who didn’t land on the injured list.

Date Result Highights
Oct. 2 TB 5, OAK 1 Watch

Morton's performance was just as impressive as his durability, earning him his second All-Star Game appearance. Morton won 16 games and posted a 3.05 ERA over 194 2/3 innings. He also led the Rays with a 5.1 WAR, per Baseball Reference, and was named team co-MVP with Austin Meadows by Tampa Bay’s Baseball Writers' Association of America chapter.

Morton recorded the last out of the 2017 World Series with the Astros, and his experience should help the Rays, who have only 10 players on the active roster with playoff experience. Because of what Morton has meant to this team, Cash kept it short and simple when explaining why Morton was his choice for Wednesday’s win-or-go-home game.

“He’s been fun and exciting,” Cash said, with a smile.

Aside from Morton, the Rays are going to have to make a couple of difficult decisions with their 25-man roster for the Wild Card Game. Some of the obvious position players will certainly be on the roster, but the Rays will wait until the A’s announce their pitching plans before making their final decisions.

The A’s could go with left-hander Sean Manaea or right-hander Mike Fiers or throw out a bullpen day, which is what they did during last year’s Wild Card loss to the Yankees. Either way, the Rays have already begun their discussions.

“I don’t know what they’re going to do,” Cash said. “I really don’t know. But I do know that we have a handful because we mirror each other in so many ways. Whichever way they go, we like to think we can come back. But they can come right back and flip it on us. It’s going to be a very interesting game and how it’s managed.”

Cash doesn’t expect to have any final roster decisions until the 1 p.m. ET cutoff time on Wednesday.

“The way our group works, we’ll pick it apart,” Cash said. “We’ve been talking a lot about it, but I don’t have much information on it. But we know Charlie is pitching.”

Diaz returns
After an instructional league game in Port Charlotte, Fla., last week, Yandy Díaz said that he wanted to return to the active roster before the end of the regular season. On Sunday, the Rays activated Díaz from the 60-day injured list and designated right-hander Cole Sulser for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster.

“I’ve been away from the team for a little while,” Díaz said through translator Manny Navarro. “But it feels good to be back.”

Díaz fouled a ball off his left foot on July 22 and missed considerable time with the injury. In August, tests showed that Díaz had a hairline fracture, which appeared to have ended a career year in which he has hit 14 home runs.

Now that Díaz is back in the mix, the Rays won’t ask him to play the infield. He served as the designated hitter on Sunday and batted leadoff to try to get him five plate appearances.

There are still a lot of questions that need to be answered regarding Díaz’s availability for Wednesday’s Wild Card Game.

“He’s worked hard to get back now,” Cash said. “He’s had a handful of at-bats in instructional league. He got a bunch of at-bats against some left-handed pitchers in instructional league two days ago. I talked to him, and he feels good to DH.

“There’s some uncertainty, obviously, with the timing at the plate, but more so what happens when he hits a ball in the gap. Can he get to second base? All of these things, I don’t know if we’ll be able to find answers today, but why not go ahead and try it and see what we get.”

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