Relievers José Alvarado and Chaz Roe were the first to go down in the second half, with a right oblique strain and a right flexor strain, respectively. They were followed by righty Ryne Stanek (right hip soreness), center fielder Kevin Kiermaier (left thumb sprain), infielder Yandy Díaz (left foot contusion) and then Snell, whose departure became the exclamation point.
“It’s rough, there’s no doubt,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “We’re going to find out a lot about ourselves in the next month or six weeks, whenever Blake gets back. You can’t deny that, but we’re not in a position where we can let it affect us too much because we’re right in the thick of things, and we’ve got to continue to find ways to play good baseball and sketch out some wins here.”
Ahead of Tampa Bay’s three-game set against the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre that began Friday, the Rays sat a half-game back of the A's for the second American League Wild Card spot. Despite the hardships they face, they have the benefit of the easiest remaining strength of schedule across the Majors.
Friday began a stretch in which the Rays play 24 of 27 games against teams with losing records, and Tampa Bay is 27-12 this season against teams with such marks. Only the Dodgers and Pirates have better winning percentages against teams with losing records. The series in Toronto could determine whether the Rays become buyers or sellers before the July 31 Trade Deadline, but Cash doesn’t believe Snell is replaceable.
“I don’t foresee us going out and finding a starter,” Cash said. “You’re not going to find a starter who’s going to replace Blake Snell. We certainly have the depth and are equipped to handle a big workload. It’s going to take these guys really getting on a good run to do that, though.”
Perez returns to roster
In a corresponding roster move with Snell being placed on the injured list, Michael Perez was recalled from Triple-A Durham on Friday.
The 26-year-old catcher was on Tampa Bay’s Opening Day roster before landing on the injured list with a right oblique strain on May 8. He was optioned on June 9 to Durham, where he hit .231/.317/.481 with seven home runs.
“I feel good,” Perez said. “I’m seeing the ball well, swing feels good. I’m just trying to put good at-bats together, good quality at-bats every time I go up there. I want to try to help contribute and help the team now that I’m up.”
“We’ve been playing Travis because he’s been swinging the bat so well, playing him a lot at first base, especially against left-handed pitching,” Cash said. “So that gives us a little more versatility late in the game if we want to hit or pinch-run for one of them, knowing that Mikey Perez is here.
“He’s a Major League catcher. We’re fortunate that we’ve had him in Durham. I’m glad he’s back up here, and he’ll provide a spark any way that he can.”
• Kiermaier took swings on Friday and should come off the injured list close to when he is eligible, on Wednesday against the Red Sox in Boston. He is set to make a rehab start as the DH for Class A Advanced Port Charlotte on Saturday.
• Infielder Brandon Lowe, who has a right shin bone bruise, “had a much, much better day today,” Cash said. “He was quoted as saying that he felt better today than any other day prior, significantly better, which is good.”
• Stanek is slated to throw a bullpen session either Saturday or Sunday.
• Alvarado has been throwing at 90 feet and hasn’t felt anything, “which is a little head-scratching in the fact that it’s an oblique,” Cash said. “We’ve got to be smart with that, but the arm, Kyle [Snyder, pitching coach] watched him throw the last day before we left and said he looked really, really good. He’s pretty pain-free, so we could be getting closer to getting him off the mound, which is another hurdle when you’re talking about obliques.”