ST. PETERSBURG -- Austin Meadows returned to the Rays' lineup on Tuesday night, and it couldn't have come at a better time.
The Rays reinstated Meadows before their game against the Red Sox at Tropicana Field and immediately inserted him into the leadoff spot. Meadows, who had been away from the team since July 3 after testing positive for COVID-19, went 2-for-4 with an RBI triple in Tampa Bay's 5-1 victory.
In order to make room for Meadows, Tampa Bay optioned right-hander Trevor Richards to the club's alternate training site in Port Charlotte, Fla.
"It's been a pretty long road," Meadows said. "I'm just glad I'm here now. I'm just looking forward to seeing my teammates and getting that social interaction that I didn't get for a long time. It's amazing how much for granted you take those things, and then once you get in a room with people and stuff like that, I'm definitely grateful for it."
In Meadows' absence, the Rays' lineup has been inconsistent. Though the club won't add any pressure on Meadows, his presence could surely help Tampa Bay get back on track and snap its five-game skid.
"He brings such a steady presence in the lineup," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "Offensively, what he did last year was pretty remarkable. And the consistency that he showed, he had one stretch where he went quiet, but other than that, he was as consistent as any player in baseball. It seemed like whatever the moment was, he didn't amp up to it, he just stayed within himself and really did a lot of special things for us. … It's really, really nice to have him back."
Through 10 games, the Rays have scored just one run in the first two innings, which is tied with the Cardinals for the second fewest in the Majors. A big reason for that has been the lack of production out of the leadoff spot. Tampa Bay leadoff hitters entered Tuesday's game 2-for-10 to begin the season, with both hits coming from Yandy Díaz over the weekend.
As a whole, leadoff hitters for the Rays are slashing .150/.261/.536 in 10 games. Last season, Meadows had four leadoff home runs and posted a .307/.382/.954 slash line out of the leadoff spot. Having Meadows back could provide added production out of that spot, and he could also help the rest of the lineup feel more comfortable.
"He's a big part of us," Cash said. "We definitely have missed him. Hopefully the guys took the time in the off-day to recognize that we're a good team and we just have to get back to being ourselves. And maybe that means staying within ourselves a little bit, because it does sound like a lot of people are feeling the added pressure."
Meadows took part in the first Summer Camp workout at Tropicana Field on July 3. But after experiencing some symptoms, Meadows quickly alerted the training staff to let them know he wasn't feeling very good. Shortly after that, Meadows tested positive for the coronavirus.
The outfielder said he contracted the virus from his wife, Alexis, despite taking the necessary precautions after her positive test, such as wearing masks around the house and sleeping in different rooms. Meadows said his symptoms were mostly mild, but he experienced "severe fatigue" for the first two to four days of the illness. Meadows also lost his sense of smell and taste and has just recently recovered from that.
"It was really weird. Everything just tasted like cardboard," Meadows said.
In Port Charlotte, Meadows said he took about four at-bats every day over the last week and did a lot of running out in the sun in order to improve his conditioning and shed some of the weight that he gained while in isolation. Now that it's all behind him, Meadows said he woke up with a big smile on his face knowing that he would be back in Tampa Bay's lineup.
"The last big league game I played was 10 months ago," Meadows said. "It's been a long time coming. I'm just excited to get back out there and try to help the team win."
Margot placed on the bereavement list
Before Tuesday's game, the Rays announced that outfielder Manuel Margot has been placed on the bereavement list following the death of his father. Cash wouldn't get into much detail, given the sensitivity of the subject, but he did add that Margot's father had been ill for some time.
"Our thoughts, the organization's thoughts are with Manny and his family," Cash said. "Pretty tough news to handle."
With Margot away from the team, Tampa Bay recalled outfielder Brian O'Grady from the alternate training site and added him to the 30-man roster.
McKay and Arozarena
Cash said there were no real updates on Brendan McKay and Randy Arozarena, who continue to rehab at the alternate training site after a positive COVID-19 test. Arozarena is still not ready to play in a big league game due to a lengthy absence, but he has earned rave reviews from the staff in Port Charlotte.
"He's still a ways away, but he's kind of picked up where he left off with the bat a couple of months ago," Cash said. "They said he's smacking doubles all over the ballpark."