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Bloom: Matt Duffy is ready to play

MLB: Chicago White Sox at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Hot stove chatter focuses on trade and signing speculation, but one important piece of the 2018 Rays equation is already on the roster. Matt Duffy, who missed all of 2017 with a very stubborn heel injury, could be back at full strength in 2018. If he is, the Rays infield looks completely different.

Chaim Bloom, for one, is optimistic. Steve Kinsella, reporting from Orlando, tweets:

Rays fans haven’t had much opportunity to get to know Duffy, so let’s have a brief review. He was acquired from the Giants, along with two prospects, for Matt Moore, at the 2016 trade deadline. An 18th round draft pick in 2012, the lanky right hander mostly played third base for the Giants, but has the defensive chops to play well at shortstop, his most likely place with the Rays.

In his only full major league season, 2015, his consistent hitting and solid defense provided 4.9 WAR for the Giants and earned him Rookie of the Year votes. The Rays are hoping a healthy Matt Duffy can reprise his 2015 results.

When he came to the Rays in 2016, he was known to be dealing with a heel injury (no doubt one reason he was available despite his strong 2015). He had surgery toward the end of the 2016 season with the goal of rehabbing and returning early-ish in 2017. However each effort at rehab ended as he continued to experience discomfort and limited mobility. Additional treatment, rest and rehab have him, according to Bloom, now ready to resume baseball in 2018.

Duffy was a fan favorite in San Francisco, known for, among other things, his dedication to Skeeter, an aging 27 pound cat. Skeeter sadly passed away this Fall.

Rays fans can, we hope, look forward to a healthy Duffy providing strong infield defense as well as consistent right-handed hitting in 2018.