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Choi (hamstring) likely out for regular season

@juanctoribio
September 15, 2020

ST. PETERSBURG -- Barring a “pretty miraculous recovery," the Rays will likely have to finish the rest of the regular season without the help of first baseman Ji-Man Choi, who left Saturday’s 5-4 win over the Red Sox at Tropicana Field with a left hamstring strain. On Tuesday, the Rays

ST. PETERSBURG -- Barring a “pretty miraculous recovery," the Rays will likely have to finish the rest of the regular season without the help of first baseman Ji-Man Choi, who left Saturday’s 5-4 win over the Red Sox at Tropicana Field with a left hamstring strain.

On Tuesday, the Rays placed Choi on the 10-day IL, retroactive to Sept. 13, and reinstated right-hander Oliver Drake (right biceps tendinitis) from IL.

An MRI on Sunday revealed that Choi has a Grade 1 strain on the hamstring, which manager Kevin Cash said would likely require a two-to-three week recovery period. With just two weeks left in the regular season, Cash didn’t want to rule out the possibility of Choi returning during the regular season, but he added that “it’s fair” to assume that Choi won’t be ready until at least the first round of the playoffs.

Choi is hitting .230 with three home runs this season, but he had been much better at the plate lately, batting .300 in his past 12 games. He went 1-for-1 with a walk on Saturday and had recorded five extra-base hits and six RBIs in his last 12 games.

“Ji-Man brings a lot of energy and he’s a great teammate,” Cash said. “I think we all felt that he was starting to have some better at-bats and get going. He will be missed, for sure.”

With Choi going on the injured list, he will join Mike Zunino and Yandy Díaz as the key offensive contributors on the IL. The Rays have navigated through a lot of key injuries this season, with 13 players on the IL at one point this season.

“I think we all knew coming in that this was a pretty unique circumstance and that guys were going to go down,” Cash said of the 2020 season. “But even with that preparation, it’s tough to wrap your head around what has taken place. Saying that, we’re a very good team and we’ve worked through this and we’re going to continue to do that. And we will.”

In Choi’s absence, the Rays will lean on Nate Lowe and Mike Brosseau to handle most of the responsibilities at first base. Brosseau will handle most of the duties against left-handed pitching, though Lowe is in Sunday’s lineup against left-hander Martín Pérez.

After a slow start, Lowe is 4-for-7 with two home runs and five RBIs in the past two games against the Red Sox. Now, it appears that he’ll get the consistent at-bats that have been lacking over the last two seasons.

“You hate to see someone go down. It’s unfortunate for us because [Choi] can help in a bunch of different ways and we’re going to miss him,” Lowe said. “But we have strong players behind him that will come in, and I’m going to do my best to fill this role and we’re excited about our chances moving forward.”

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