Choi (groin strain) lands on 10-day IL
ARLINGTON -- Ji-Man Choi is out of the lineup again, as the Rays placed their first baseman on the 10-day injured list Friday due to a left groin strain. The good news is they don’t expect to miss Choi for too long.
Choi said he had an MRI on Friday that revealed only a “slight strain,” and he reported to Globe Life Field feeling better than he did while sitting out of Thursday’s game at Yankee Stadium. He hadn’t healed enough to stay off the injured list, but he was hopeful that he could return as soon as he’s eligible on June 13.
Admittedly compensating for his surgically repaired right knee by putting more pressure on his left leg, Choi said he tweaked his left groin in New York on Tuesday. He pinch-hit on Wednesday but didn’t start against Gerrit Cole on Thursday, and the Rays made his 10-day IL assignment retroactive to Thursday.
“Mentally, I try to have a balance, but I think my body is just trying to lean toward my left side,” Choi said through interpreter Steve Nam. “Right now, it’s on my mind, too. But with the 10 days I have, I'll try to focus on my right knee also so I can come back as healthy as possible.”
The Rays will miss his bat, as Choi hit .304/.448/.522 with two homers in his first 15 games back from the IL and provided some of the team’s toughest at-bats during a scorching-hot stretch for their entire lineup. Manager Kevin Cash said Tampa Bay would be “thrilled” to have Choi back in the next 10-15 days, but the club will first have to see how his condition improves this weekend.
As was the case earlier this season, the Rays will primarily lean on Yandy Díaz to handle first base while Choi is out. Mike Brosseau can also play first, if necessary.
“We’re going to miss him for sure, because he’s swung the bat so well. He’s lengthened our lineup,” Cash said. “But we feel like we’re very capable of doing good things while we’re waiting for him to get back here.”
Around the horn
• With Choi sidelined, the Rays recalled left-hander Ryan Sherriff from Triple-A Durham to take his spot on the roster. Sherriff broke camp in Tampa Bay’s Opening Day bullpen then went on the restricted list on April 3 following his decision to take some time away from the game for mental health reasons.
Sherriff resumed a throwing program on April 19, officially joined the Triple-A roster on May 1 and put together a 3.38 ERA in nine outings for Durham.
“Excited to have him back. He’s throwing the ball well,” Cash said. “He seems in a very good spot. He’s excited to be here. Against this [Rangers] team that has a bunch of lefties ... he can certainly contribute at any point during the game.”
• Friday was the Rays’ first trip to Globe Life Field since Game 6 of the World Series. They’re staying in the same resort hotel they briefly called home last October. Second baseman Brandon Lowe said everything about the trip brought back good memories, especially of their dramatic Game 4 victory.
That’s why Lowe jokingly told outfielder Brett Phillips he should relive his walk-off celebration by calling timeout during his first at-bat on Friday, “get out there and do the airplane again.”
“I got a laugh out of him,” Lowe added, grinning.
• Right-hander Chaz Roe made his first rehab appearance for Triple-A Durham on Thursday and struck out one batter in a perfect second inning.
• Right-hander Sean Poppen, acquired from the Pirates on May 18 and sent to Durham, joined the Rays’ taxi squad in Arlington. Cash noted that teams’ pitching staffs can get “exhausted” by four-game series like the one Tampa Bay just played in New York, so the team wanted depth on hand if necessary. Poppen struck out seven while allowing three hits and three walks in 5 1/3 innings over four appearances for Durham.
• The Rays added shortstop Osleivis Basabe, the club’s No. 24 prospect, to their Low-A Charleston roster on Friday afternoon, giving the RiverDogs eight players on MLB Pipeline’s list of the Top 30 Rays prospects. Basabe, 20, came to the Rays from the Rangers alongside Heriberto Hernandez and Alexander Ovalles in the Nate Lowe trade. Basabe is taking the spot of shortstop Alika Williams, the 37th overall pick in the 2020 Draft, who was placed on the seven-day injured list.