Rays’ Taylor Walls on track to be ready for season opener

ST. PETERSBURG — Infielder Taylor Walls has played in only two spring games since recovering from an oblique strain, and the Rays have only seven remaining, but he is expected to be ready for the March 30 season opener.

“No symptoms, everything feels good, body feels great,” Walls said Sunday. “Just kind of at this point, it’s just following the schedule they’ve got for me and just kind of ramping up. They’re taking it as not to ramp up so fast that you cause something to happen.”

Walls is slated to play third base on Monday and be in the lineup next on Wednesday, then potentially in three of the final four games. He is 0-for-5 in the two games, one as the DH and one at third. He also will be used at second and shortstop during the season.

“For me, essentially, it’s still like the beginning of March, games just started," he said. “So I’m definitely gonna have to build up faster than everyone else, but at the same time, it’s like they kind of have a schedule of what they want me to go by."

The waiting, especially after what he considered to be a minor injury, is the hardest part.

“Spring training is awesome, but at the same time, it’s just to prepare you for the season," he said. “So as long as I can feel good, body feel great and be asymptomatic come opening day and feel like I’m ramped up and built up enough to go out there and perform at my best, that’s all that really matters."

Roster trimming continues

Having dealt with injuries and inconsistent performances as a starter, 2017 second-round pick Michael Mercado, one of three players reassigned to minor-league camp Sunday, will start the season pitching in relief.

“We did see more power, so curious to see how that’ll play out,” manager Kevin Cash said. “I don’t think we’re attached to anything, but we want to commit a little bit for that in the first month, see how he responds.”

Mercado was 4-8, 4.91 last season at Double-A Montgomery.

Also reassigned, as the Rays reduced their active spring roster to 55, were pitchers Josh Roberson (”Big, big stuff," Cash said) and Hector Perez.

Game details: Rays 1, Jays 0

Starter Drew Rasmussen had a strong five-inning outing against a lineup of mainly Toronto regulars, allowing two hits and no walks, striking out two, throwing 44 of 56 pitches for strikes. “You’re just trying to build up some workload and you don’t know exactly how the body’s gonna respond,” Rasmussen said. “But the way they came out swinging it today really helped kind of push how far I got to go, which was good on both ends. They were being aggressive and I was efficient.” … The Rays (13-9-1) got their run in the third off Jays starter Alek Manoah when Yandy Diaz walked, Wander Franco was hit by a pitch (on the left foot) and Harold Ramirez singled to left. … Bench candidate Luke Raley had two more hits, increasing his average to .313 in a solid spring. ... Jose Siri tried to bunt for a hit, which Cash said could be another effective way for him to use his speed. … Frontline relievers Pete Fairbanks, Jalen Beeks, Garrett Cleavinger and Ryan Thompson each worked an inning; only Beeks allowed a hit. … Franco, playing his first game after World Baseball Classic play, was “totally fine,” Cash said. He stayed in the game at DH and will play shortstop Monday.


First base prospect Kyle Manzardo, who was reassigned on Saturday, is likely to start the season at Triple-A Durham, having hit .327 last season between High A Bowling Green and Double-A Montgomery. …. Infield prospects Carson Williams, the 2021 top pick, and Junior Caminero are slated to be reserves Monday and start Tuesday at Fort Myers.

• • •

Sign up for the Rays Report weekly newsletter to get fresh perspectives on the Tampa Bay Rays and the rest of the majors from sports columnist John Romano.

Never miss out on the latest with the Bucs, Rays, Lightning, Florida college sports and more. Follow our Tampa Bay Times sports team on Twitter and Facebook.