ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays secured the American League East title on Wednesday with their win over the Mets, and they could be getting healthier heading into the postseason.
Yandy Díaz and Ji-Man Choi, both of whom are recovering from strained hamstrings, went through a full workout at Tropicana Field on Friday that included running the bases, taking ground balls, and a combination of live batting practice and normal BP. After the workout, manager Kevin Cash said he was “very encouraged” by what he saw.
“They looked very normal, so it was a very good sign,” Cash said. “We kind of graduated from the ground balls being hit right at the guys to making them move, and they looked really good.”
Díaz and Choi faced Trevor Richards and Shane McClanahan on Friday, and the expectation is that they will face reliever José Alvarado in a live BP on Saturday. They will go through another workout on Sunday, and on Monday a decision will be made on their availability for the postseason.
As for Alvarado, the left-hander continues to progress from a left shoulder/lat issue and is a realistic option to make the 28-man roster for the Wild Card Series. That decision will come down to his overall health and if his command is where it needs to be; command has been a struggle for Alvarado over the last two seasons.
“The reports were good,” Cash said about Alvarado’s live BP on Thursday. “I asked Ji-Man how it was facing him, and he said he was landing his breaking ball and certainly had plenty of velocity in the zone, which we were excited about.”
Cash said because of the quality work the trio has put in, the team feels comfortable about including any of them on the postseason roster even though they're not appearing this weekend against the Phillies.
Renfroe at first?
Hunter Renfroe hit seventh on Friday, but played an unusual position. He served as the first baseman on Friday, marking the first time the outfielder made a start there in the Majors.
In fact, Renfroe never played first base in the Minors, nor in college or high school. He has, however, been working there during pregame drills and spent time with third-base coach Rodney Linares before Friday’s game.
The Rays want to see what Renfroe provides at first base, and he could be a possibility in the postseason against left-handed pitching, especially if Díaz and Choi are limited to designated hitter duties.
“We have righties in there that we want to make sure we get their bats in the lineup one way or another,” Cash said. “I think we all recognize what his stat line says, but there’s plenty of stuff that he’s done well throughout the year that has not gone unnoticed, and we still really think he can help us, especially when we’re facing left-handed pitchers.”
On Friday, the BBWAA Tampa Bay chapter handed out its end of the season awards. Brandon Lowe won the Don Zimmer Award, which is handed out to the team’s Most Valuable Player. Lowe became the first Rays player to win the Outstanding Rookie Award one year and the Don Zimmer Award the next.
Pete Fairbanks took home the Outstanding Rookie Award, edging out a list that included Randy Arozarena, Josh Fleming, Ryan Thompson and others. Fairbanks is 5-3 with a 2.45 in 25 appearances this season.
For the second consecutive season, Kevin Kiermaier won the Paul C. Smith Champion Award. The award is named after the former MLB.com Devil Rays beat writer and is given to the player who best exemplifies the spirit of true professionalism on and off the field.