Brandon Lowe placed on IL with right oblique strain

April 12th, 2024

ST. PETERSBURG -- After a brief injury scare last week, is back on the injured list due to a Grade 1 right oblique strain.

Lowe was not in the lineup for the Rays’ 4-2 win at Angel Stadium on Wednesday despite the Angels starting right-hander José Soriano. The slugging second baseman had an MRI that revealed a relatively mild right oblique strain, albeit one that will still force him to “miss some time,” manager Kevin Cash said before Wednesday’s game.

The Rays made the move official before Friday’s series opener against the Giants at Tropicana Field, placing Lowe on the 10-day injured list (retroactive to Tuesday) and recalling infielder Niko Goodrum from Triple-A Durham. The Rays are optimistic based on Lowe's initial response that his recovery won't take as long as others who have dealt with more significant oblique strains, so the expectation is that Lowe will miss two to four weeks, not the typical six weeks associated with such injuries.

“[The MRI] was probably the best case we could have asked for, given the circumstances,” Lowe told reporters in Anaheim on Wednesday.

But it’s hardly the best-case scenario overall for Lowe or the Rays, who have already been dealt a number of significant injury blows. Lowe was hoping for a full, healthy season after being limited to 174 games over the past two years due to back injuries and a fractured right kneecap, but he now figures to be sidelined for at least a few weeks.

Lowe was pulled early from the Rays’ April 3 game against the Rangers due to left side tightness and underwent a precautionary MRI. But that scan revealed no issues, and Lowe returned to the field for all three of Tampa Bay’s games at Coors Field. He didn’t start Monday or Tuesday against the Angels, which was expected against a pair of left-handed pitchers.

He was preparing for a possible pinch-hit appearance on Tuesday, however, when something flared up his right oblique. Lowe said he has never dealt with an oblique or side issue and was obviously frustrated by his latest injury.

“Something didn't feel right. That's pretty much what it was. Not supposed to feel that way,” he told reporters. “I talked to the trainer to see what they had to say about it and decided to tell Cash that I wasn't available.”

“Pretty fluky. You really feel for Brandon,” Cash added. “It's just unfortunate. I do feel bad for him, that he worked really hard.”

Lowe is the third left-handed bat the Rays have lost to the injured list since the middle of Spring Training. They were already without right fielder Josh Lowe, out with a right oblique strain after a breakout 2023 season, and infielder Jonathan Aranda, who was expected to take a big step forward this year before fracturing his right ring finger.

Against right-handed pitchers, those three could have been the Rays’ No. 2 (B. Lowe), cleanup (J. Lowe) and No. 6 (Aranda) hitters. Without them, the Rays’ top three left-handed hitters will be outfielder Richie Palacios, corner infield prospect Austin Shenton and catcher Ben Rortvedt.

Prospect Curtis Mead and veteran Amed Rosario will get more work at second base in Brandon Lowe’s absence. Rosario got the nod Friday night against the Giants, although he's also an option in right field against left-handed pitchers. Primarily a third baseman in the Minors, Mead said he has worked enough at second to feel more comfortable on that side of the bag now than he does at third.

"[President of baseball operations Erik Neander] did a heck of a job of going to get Amed -- he's a really good player -- right there at the beginning or towards the middle of Spring Training," Cash said. "And Curtis Mead, it's just going to present more opportunities for a young player that we think really, really highly of. Both of them have had solid starts to this season."

Palacios also has experience at second base, although he is currently one of the club's best defensive options in right field and seems likely to start there over Rosario against right-handers. The Rays can also slot in the versatile, switch-hitting Goodrum, who got the nod for an early promotion over right-handed-hitting utility infielder Osleivis Basabe.

The Rays acquired Goodrum, 32, from the Twins on March 26, then added him to their 40-man roster and optioned him to Triple-A Durham. He went 12-for-38 (.316) with three homers and 12 RBIs in nine games for Durham.

Goodrum, who has started at least 10 MLB games at seven different positions, is a career .226/.299/.389 hitter with 42 homers in 402 games for the Twins, Tigers and Astros from 2017-22. He split last season between the KBO’s Lotte Giants and Boston’s Triple-A Worcester affiliate.

"Last year, to be able to go through a full season, going to Korea and things like that that you never really think about that you will go through in your career -- to land back here and to get called back up is pretty cool," Goodrum said.