Rays’ Ji-Man Choi has setback with knee issue

Marc Topkin, Tampa Bay Times
·4 min read

SARASOTA — First baseman Ji-Man Choi has had “additional soreness” in his right knee, which could lead to more aggressive options to address the issue and extend his absence from the lineup.

Choi has been sidelined since mid-March, receiving a cortisone shot March 13, then resting for 10 days with no baseball activities.

He had been feeling better and a few days ago resumed some limited onfield activities, with the expectation he could be ready during the second week of the season.

But Choi reported soreness Monday, was shut down again and is scheduled to see team orthopedist Dr. Koco Eaton on Tuesday. That evaluation could lead to a plan for more rest, additional injections or some type of procedure.

“Ji-Man kind of hit a little bit of a roadblock where that soreness is still creeping back in,” manager Kevin Cash said. “We kind of ramped him up a little bit. So not ideal. That news was (Monday) morning so we’re going to continue to evaluate where Ji-Man is. He’s going to see the doctor … and see if there’s added thoughts (on what) to do within his rehab.”

Though the Rays will miss Choi, Yoshi Tsutsugo has played well since shifting to first base in his absence and will get the opportunity to play there, at least against right-handed starters. Yandy Diaz is likely to get the starts against lefties, with Mike Brosseau also in the mix.

Tsutsugo is hitting .222 for the spring, but has been swinging better lately, including leading off Monday’s game with his first homer, giving the Rays hope he will perform better than in his disappointing 2020 big-league debut.

“He seems very comfortable,” Cash said. “I think we’re going to see a different Yoshi with the opportunity.”

Two starters for the price of one

Cash officially named veteran lefty Rich Hill the starter for Saturday’s third game of the season in Miami, and said Chris Archer, another veteran starter, would also pitch in a tandem act.

The Rays are doubling them up due to workload concerns, as both have been building up slowly through the spring. Archer, 32, missed all of last season due to injury and Hill, 41, made only eight starts. And the Rays don’t need five starters initially with two days off in the first eight of the season.

Hill started against the Orioles on Monday, navigating leadoff homers in the first two innings to turn in an efficient five-inning, 63-pitch outing. “The velocity was up, curveball was really good,” Hill said. “I feel really good about it. It’s been a progression throughout spring training, and I think we’ve definitely got to the point … where I want to be, so it was good.”

Archer, meanwhile, pitched in an intrasquad game in Port Charlotte, the team saying he threw five innings and 75 pitches. “We’re thrilled were Arch is,” Cash said. “Whatever workload he takes on in Game 3, will help him for (his first start, likely April 10).”

Game details: Rays 8, Orioles 3 (7 innings)

Willy Adames hit two homers in a game for what he said was the first time since Double-A as the Rays (12-15) won their fourth straight. … The Rays went to the bench in the fifth and scored four runs, with RBI doubles by minor-leaguers Brett Sullivan and Esteban Quiroz. … Non-roster reliever Stetson Allie worked a 1-2-3 sixth.

Miscellany

Monday’s game and Tuesday’s spring finale against the Tigers were shortened to seven innings by agreement of the managers to keep players rested. … The Rays and other teams were notified by Major League Baseball and the union that if/when 85 percent of their Tier 1 group (players, coaches, staff that comes in close contact) are fully vaccinated, some protocols and restrictions will be lifted. … The Rays will fly to Miami on Wednesday and go through a workout at Marlins Park in advance of Thursday’s opener.

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