Rays 'pretty optimistic' Franco (quad) will be ready by Opening Day

March 26th, 2023

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Rays manager Kevin Cash said he is “pretty optimistic” that shortstop will be ready to play on Opening Day after Franco underwent an MRI on his sore right quad muscle on Sunday.

Franco was scratched from the lineup before the Rays’ 4-2 win against the Red Sox on Saturday afternoon at Tropicana Field. He played Friday’s game against the Mets and took part in Tampa Bay’s pregame workout on Saturday morning, then reported some soreness in his right leg before first pitch.

Franco didn’t make the trip for the Rays’ 11-10 loss to the Tigers on Sunday at Joker Marchant Stadium and will not play in their Spring Training finale against the Yankees on Monday in Tampa. That essentially gives the 22-year-old switch-hitter three more days to rest and prepare for Tampa Bay’s season opener against Detroit on Thursday at the Trop.

“Wander seemed to get a favorable report,” Cash said. “I don’t think anything’s been decided. Optimistic that, if we can get this thing treated the right way, we should be in a spot where he’s good to go.

“Certainly that’s our hope. Let’s just see how these next three days unfold. Three off-days in a row for him, maybe get him out there [on Wednesday] to take [batting practice], see how he feels. But I’m pretty optimistic.”

It may very well turn out to be a minor issue, but it’s worth noting that Franco’s right leg has given him some trouble in the past. He missed about two weeks in September 2021 due to tightness in his right hamstring, and he spent most of last June on the injured list last season due to a right quad strain.

Limited to 83 games last season due to lower-body injuries and a fractured hamate, Franco slashed .277/.328/.417 with six homers, 33 RBIs and 2.6 WAR. He is one of several hitters the Rays are counting on to bounce back or break through this year, improving a lineup that struggled down the stretch last season.

Franco reported to Spring Training in good health, noting that his offseason diet and training regimen were designed to improve his flexibility and increase his durability. He’s been healthy to this point, starting four Grapefruit League games for the Rays before joining the Dominican Republic team in the World Baseball Classic.

Franco played in four games over the past week since returning from the WBC. He was the DH on March 19, then played five innings at shortstop on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. 

Franco had been in line to start as Tampa Bay’s designated hitter on Saturday, but Tristan Gray came to the plate in his spot -- and homered -- in the first inning. Cash said after Saturday’s game he was not “overly concerned” about Franco but acknowledged it was “certainly not ideal to have a guy [hurt] at this point of Spring Training.”