Rays’ Triple-A pitcher hit by line drive released from hospital

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ST. PETERSBURG — Rays Triple-A pitcher Tyler Zombro was released from Duke University Hospital Wednesday, less than a week after being struck in the face by a line drive and undergoing brain surgery.

The Rays said Zombro “will remain in Durham and continue with his outpatient occupational and speech therapy,” and that his family will stay with him.

“Steps in the right direction,” Durham manager Brady Williams said on his Bulls Radio Network pregame show with Patrick Kinas. “He’s not anyway done with the rehab process and what’s going on. But to tell you he’s doing well.”

Zombro, 26, was hit by a line drive in Durham’s game last Thursday, then “fell face first and started convulsing on the ground,” according to a tweet from Chris Lea of WRAL-TV. Zombro was taken from the field on a stretcher.

Zombro’s parents told the Daily News-Record in Harrisonburg, Va., he had “major brain surgery” a few hours after the incident. He was moved out of the intensive care unit on Monday.

Zombro set the team a photo with a “Go Bulls” message that was well received, Williams said. “It was great for us to see him. It hasn’t been easy. But he’s a fighter. He’s a stud. And he’s going to get through this.”

Durham players and coaches have added a “Z” to their hats in Zombro’s honor, Williams said, and ordered T-shirts with a Z on the back and “Keep going #family” on the front. “Looking forward to getting those in and representing him,” Williams said.

The Rays said in a statement they “extend their gratitude to the doctors, nurses and staff caring for Tyler and continue to be overwhelmed by the support for his recovery.”

Ji-Man Choi closing in on return

First baseman Ji-Man Choi, sidelined since June 2 with a left groin strain, continues to progress toward a potential return as soon as Sunday, when he is first eligible to come off the 10-day injured list. Rays manager Kevin Cash said Wednesday Choi had “another good day,” and if he continues to feel well likely will go to Port Charlotte to play in extended spring training games Friday and Saturday “and then see where we’re at Sunday.”

Pitching in

The Rays made a slight tweak to their pitching plans for the weekend series against the Orioles. Ryan Yarbrough, coming off the Rays’ first complete game since May 2016, will work (and likely start) Friday’s game as scheduled. But veteran lefty Rich Hill moved up a day and will start Saturday, with Josh Fleming moved back to Sunday. A decision is pending on whether he will start or work behind an opener. … Chris Archer, sidelined since early April, said he feels good in long toss sessions and could start throwing off a mound as soon as next week.

Miscellany

• Joey Wendle’s homer was his first as a pinch-hitter — which he joked he knew since he doesn’t have that many overall (23). He became the eighth Ray to hit a game-tying, pinch-hit homer in the eighth inning or later and the first since Brandon Guyer on Sept. 20, 2015.

• The Rays used six relievers after starter Shane McClanahan lasted only three innings, but Pete Fairbanks, who last worked Sunday, was not among them. Cash said he was next in if the game went to a 12th inning.

• In partnership with the state health department in Pinellas and Bayfront Health St. Petersburg, the Rays will offer free vaccines next week at Tropicana Field (June 15-17, 3-7 p.m.), plus a voucher for two tickets to any (non-Yankees or Red Sox) home game.

• Outfielder Garrett Whitley, the Rays’ 2015 first-round pick, hit for the cycle for Double-A Montgomery on Tuesday, the 15th player in organization history to do so.

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