A day after Kevin Cash named infielder Nick Franklin as the Rays starting second baseman, he has succumbed to what he described as a severe oblique injury.
There is currently no timetable for a return, but he will require everyday treatment. Furthermore, it appears to be a slight strain Franklin tried playing through and it became worse during his last swing of batting practice, hitting from the right side. For now, he will follow the Rays approach of 'however long it takes, one day at a time' until he's ready to take the field again.
Who takes his place should be an interesting battle for late spring.
The only player with a major league track record ready to take on second would be a big guy with surprising range and a ginger beard -- no, it's not close to Ben Zobrist reborn, but Logan Forsythe did have one season where he bested expectations.
The Padres promoted him in 2012 to a mostly full time role, averaging 22 games per month and posting a 110 wRC+ without a platoon consideration. Since that time he's best served in a role limited to southpaws at the plate, but perhaps he could rise above while Franklin recovers.
If he needs a platoon mate, the first in-house option is... Hak Ju Lee?
The Rays have a few middle-infielders able to hit from the left side, with switch hitting Asdrubal Cabrera (the starting short stop), the aforementioned Hak-Ju Lee, non-roster invitee Alexi Casilla (also switch hitting, though poorly), and non-roster invitee Eugenio Velez to spare.
Casilla has not been making waves this Spring and the Rays are likely to keep Lee down in the minors, so the team is likely moving forward with a right handed second baseman any way you slice it.
That man is probably Forsythe.
Cash, audio above, says this is just another opportunity for depth to step up, and immediately jumps to praising Logan Forsythe as the first man up. The plan was to platoon Franklin with Forsythe, who's played in the bigs since 2011.
Side note: if you listen to the full audio, you'll get a bit of Cash's "real side" coming through when his mind goes back to Franklin missing opening day. Cash was never a starting catcher, he knows what it's like to ride the bus, and we know he connects well with the players but the audio we get - while abundant, thank you Rays Radio - is normally terse. Maddon would rant for hours on anything, Cash is quite direct. It's a nice window in.
As for who might replace Franklin on the roster, if we are not discussing a starting role, then it's on to the bench where any number of players could step in.
Right off the bat, I'd love to see Juan Francisco break with the club just for entertainment value, as the big slugger has an April opt out if he doesn't make the roster; however, the Rays probably need a defender to be versatile. In that case, a different non-roster invitee makes a lot of sense: Jake Elmore.
After playing reserve roles for the Diamondbacks, Astros, and Reds, Elmore joins the Rays with a career of doing well in Triple-A and really poorly across 221 PA in the bigs. The Rays have rotated him throughout the field this spring so his hard work may pay off as a true 25th man defensive replacement.
Then there's veteran Alexi Casilla, who like Elmore is a non-roster invitee. Neither player has an opt-out clause listed on Cot's. Again worth mentioning he switch hits and has experience as a utility fielder with neutral reports, but the bat is basically silent and his experience is mostly in the infield. That's not as utility as Elmore has shown this Spring.
Another option would be the famous Tim Beckham, who can fill a role up the middle and has worked hard to return to form from knee injury. His future looks to be a bench role, the Rays could start that clock now and allow him to be optioned later in the season, but that's a development call I can't make.
There's a part of me that wishes the Rays would open this up to a true competition, and call back Hak Ju Lee and Ryan Brett to grind it out alongside Forsythe for a week and see who rises above. Nick Franklin's injury should be DL-worthy and allow for an optioned player to return. It's too late in the season for that to be reasonable, but I'd love to give either promising player a chance. Lee had a devastating knee injury, Brett is a year away in development, but if we're truly talking a week into the season, either would be fun to let try.
The biggest problem is how important April is for the Rays schedule, an AL East bloodbath with an already weakened rotation. The Rays need to put their best foot forward immediately.
A logical choice here may be to finally pull the trigger on a David DeJesus trade for a left handed utility player, or someone accustomed to second base.
Is Logan Forsythe the best answer in April? Who would you target on the trade market?
- Marc Topkin looked into whether the Rays will continue to have fun without Joe Maddon around, and the quotes are glorious, like this from Alex Cobb:
"Anytime you've got 40 guys in the locker room, funny things are going to happen," starter Alex Cobb said. "They're just not forced. We're not going to set up a day to 'have fun.' We're not going to have 'Friday Fun Days' or whatever."
...or this from Evan Longoria:
"It's like going to Spencer Gifts," team leader Evan Longoria said. "The novelties are cool, but ultimately the fun of the event in general is being with the people you like being around and enjoying the things that we enjoy doing in this game. And the main thing is winning."
I'd recommend the full piece for more fun, including Chris Archer side-stepping calling Maddon's old antics a "distraction" and a note on Cash's favorite target to make fun of (Hint: it's Derek Shelton).
- Speaking of the market, a few pitchers have entered the fray of availability. Out of options Erasmo Ramirez is for sale in Seattle, the Rockies have released rotation mainstay Jhoulys Chacin, the Rangers released veteran Joe Beimel, the Reds released lefty reliever Jose Mijares, and just to mention it, the Nationals released our old friend Heath Bell just an hour after he'd appeared in a game yesterday.
- The Hardball Times on Tommy John success rates.
- Two pieces on ticket prices, one on how to "serve the audience" from the Hardball Times, and an analysis that shows Rays games are priced 7% below average when on the road, similar to the Cardinals?
- The Red Sox are likely to demote Rusney Castillo and Jackie Bradley Jr. to start the season, writes Ben Buchanan.
- Finally, remember today is an off-day. Maybe you can get some work done this afternoon.