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Duffy's readiness for Opening Day in question

MLB.com @wwchastain

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Shortstop Matt Duffy might not be ready for Opening Day after all.

Duffy underwent season-ending surgery on his left heel on Sept. 9. Earlier in camp, he noted that he expected to be playing in exhibition games by the middle of March. Now that won't be the case.

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PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Shortstop Matt Duffy might not be ready for Opening Day after all.

Duffy underwent season-ending surgery on his left heel on Sept. 9. Earlier in camp, he noted that he expected to be playing in exhibition games by the middle of March. Now that won't be the case.

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Drill work -- specifically, drills in which he took ground balls -- was aggravating Duffy's heel, and that proved to be counterproductive to the work he was doing to strengthen the injured area, which is the top priority in his recovery. So about a week ago, the team made an adjustment to his regimen.

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"We cut out the more intense ground balls," Duffy said. "[I'm] still a little bit behind strength-wise. With the ground balls, whenever I'd ramp it up a little bit, it would kind of aggravate it. I had to take a day or two off from strength.

"Now I'm focusing on strengthening it, and it's really starting to respond pretty well. ... It's responding well without doing the ground balls. So once we get back to doing the ground balls, we'll know if it has made progress. Just on a day-to-day basis, how it feels when I wake up, that's a big indicator for me. It's not sore waking up any more, so that's good. I'm just trying to balance now [and determine] the right time to test it again."

When asked if the middle of March is out of the question for a return, Duffy replied, "Probably looking at Opening Day. We're trying not to put a hard day on it. Let it take its course. If it takes an extra week, then so be it. ... The goal is to be healthy all year. Not to push it to be ready for Opening Day, then two weeks in having to go on the DL because it's just so sore."

Manager Kevin Cash allowed that once more information is available about Duffy's progress, he'll decide whether to start giving Tim Beckham more reps at shortstop. Beckham has been working a lot in the outfield this spring to expand his flexibility in the field.

Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com.

Tampa Bay Rays, Matt Duffy