Tsutsugo said through an interpreter that he felt “pretty bad” on Thursday, experiencing the symptoms that occasionally accompany the second/final dose of a COVID-19 vaccine -- achiness, fatigue and more. Tsutsugo admitted he played through some symptoms on Wednesday night, when he went 0-for-3 with three strikeouts, but he said he felt “back to normal” on Friday.
Activating Tsutsugo was one of several moves the Rays made on Friday afternoon, as they also placed left-hander Rich Hill on the COVID-related IL due to side effects from his vaccination and again recalled reliever Louis Head from the alternate training site. The Rays optioned Head to Triple-A Durham after Friday’s game, likely an indication that Hill will be ready to rejoin the active roster on Saturday.
Rays manager Kevin Cash said Hill was OK but “kind of groggy, achy [and] not feeling ideal” on Friday. Hill is scheduled to pitch Sunday’s series finale against Houston, so Tampa Bay is hoping he’ll recover quickly enough to take the mound for that game.
“If it's anything like Yoshi, Yoshi seems to be feeling good today. Obviously, he's back and back in the lineup, so that's a good sign,” Cash said. “Hopefully, that's kind of how Rich will bounce back as well.”
Head has had an eventful week since being called up to the Majors for the first time on his 31st birthday. The right-hander made his long-awaited big league debut last Sunday, pitched two scoreless innings on Monday and got optioned late Wednesday night (to make room for Shane McClanahan’s promotion) only to be recalled Thursday morning (to fill Tsutsugo’s spot), optioned again after Thursday’s game (to make room for Tsutsugo’s return), recalled again Friday afternoon (to fill Hill’s spot on the roster) and optioned to Durham after giving up three runs in the ninth inning Friday night.
First baseman Ji-Man Choi (right knee) worked out on the field before Friday’s game at The Trop. He is scheduled to take part in a simulated game on Saturday, with Pete Fairbanks (shoulder) on the mound as he takes a step forward in his recovery. Choi could also hit in a sim game on Sunday when Collin McHugh (back) is scheduled to pitch.
Choi will then join Triple-A Durham’s Opening Day roster, where he’ll get needed game action with the prospect-rich group at the Rays’ top Minor League affiliate. Given the amount of time he’s missed, Choi will likely need at least 30 at-bats before he’s deemed ready to join the big league club.
• The Rays are deliberating whether left-hander Cody Reed (thumb injection) will face hitters one more time or rejoin their bullpen after pitching in a sim game Thursday at the alternate training site.
• Cash said the Rays remain in contact with Chris Archer, whose return from lateral right forearm tightness has been delayed as he attends to a family matter.
“We're just hoping that everything progresses in the right direction, and I think it's best for us to just support Arch and what he's going through and just continue to check on him,” Cash said. “But there is no real update, physically. He did say that he felt good, but he's taken a little bit of time down away from actually the grind of rehabbing and getting back.”
Around the horn
• Rays outfielder Randy Arozarena torched the Astros when the two clubs met last October in the American League Championship Series, going 9-for-28 with four homers in the seven-game series, but he was out of the lineup for Friday’s series opener. In the middle of a stretch of 17 straight games -- and 30 in 31 days -- Tampa Bay has been mindful of every player’s workload.
• Cash said Friday that McClanahan, who showed off his dazzling stuff in his four-inning regular-season debut on Thursday, will remain in the Rays’ rotation and return to the mound in four or five days.
• Slotting McClanahan into the mix gave the rest of the Rays’ starters an extra day of rest. Left-hander Josh Fleming, who will pitch Saturday, said he used the additional day to give his arm a rest and pushed his between-starts bullpen session back a day -- a tip passed down by Tampa Bay’s pitchers over the years.
“Blake Snell told me this last year, and he actually got it from Archer, when Archer was here before,” Fleming said. “If you're a starter, you get 30 starts a year. So if you can have an extra day of no-throw, that's 30 days off, essentially, that your arm gets, which keeps your arm healthy throughout the whole year, throughout the course of a 162-game season.”