BALTIMORE -- The news was supposed to be encouraging for Brandon Lowe. Recovering from a right shin bone bruise that had sidelined him since early July, he was playing his second rehab game with Triple-A Durham on Wednesday after four previous games with lower-level Tampa Bay affiliates.
Slowly but surely, Lowe was progressing toward his long-awaited return to a club in the midst of a pennant race.
Instead, Lowe was removed from Wednesday's game with an injury, and Rays manager Kevin Cash announced Thursday that the All-Star second baseman will be sidelined the remainder of the year -- postseason included -- with a left quad strain. That marked an abrupt end to what had been a promising campaign for Lowe, who had earned consideration for the American League Rookie of the Year Award.
“The whole season, from basically July, has become a disappointment," Cash said. "He did everything we could ask in the first half for us. Unfortunately the shin injury comes out, and now this as he’s getting closer. Just not ideal, but we are equipped with some guys that certainly can come in and continue to fill that void. We’ve been doing it.
“... But we’re going to miss him.”
While Cash remained doubtful on Friday about any potential return for Lowe, the second baseman himself said his focus is to get healthy as quickly as possible to try to make a return by October, should the team reach that point.
“After working my butt off to come back and being only a couple days away from returning, it’s extremely frustrating to hit this setback,” Lowe said Friday in a statement provided by the club. “Now my goal is to come back to help this team in the postseason. My entire focus turns to what I can do to get back quicker, stronger and healthier.”
"We're not going to alter our plan with him as far as the rehab goes," Cash said Friday. "We're going to do everything we can. It's just going to take some time."
But if he is not able to return, soends the budding rookie year for Lowe that included an All-Star selection, though he was not able to fully partake in the festivities. He initially sustained the shin injury on July 2, when he fouled a ball off his leg. That turned into a much longer absence than Lowe had initially hoped.
Now, after Lowe sustained an unrelated quad strain on Wednesday while running out a ground ball, Tampa Bay will miss out on a potential jolt of energy with the postseason push upcoming.
The Rays will need to replace Lowe’s first-half production that featured a hitting line of .276/.339/.523 with 16 homers and 49 RBIs.
They’ll also have to do it without Yandy Diaz, who also saw his season end recently after a left foot contusion evolved into a hairline fracture.
Brosseau has taken his role in stride, batting .276/.317/.466 in his first big league campaign entering Friday. Sogard, acquired at the Trade Deadline, has fit in nicely himself, putting together a slash line of .311/.391/.541 since the trade. Wendle, meanwhile, has been out since July 31, but is rehabbing with Durham and could be back in the next few weeks. His immediate plan includes continuing to take closely monitored swings and getting back into Durham's lineup soon.
“He’s going to take 20 swings today,” Cash said prior to Thursday's series opener. “He woke up feeling better today. Hopefully he can get back out there and play, and we’ll just watch his workload going forward. Really monitor the amount of swings that he takes on a daily basis, even ones he’s taking leading up to those games.”