PORT CHARLOTTE — Tampa Bay Rays 2B Nick Franklin likely will miss the start of the regular season with a strained left oblique suffered during his final swing of batting practice before Monday’s game against the Pirates.
“I feel bad for Nick,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “I don’t think he ever had an Opening Day before, so if he hasn’t, that stinks. The guy’s worked hard and then he has that with two weeks left. That’s pretty unfortunate.”
Franklin, who is targeted to play second base after Cash named Asdrubal Cabrera the starting shortstop Monday, spent parts of the past two seasons playing for the Seattle Mariners after opening both years at Triple-A.
Rehabbing a strained oblique can take four to six weeks, sometimes longer for position players who put stress on the area when batting. With that in mind, Franklin knows his chances of returning by April 6 when the Rays begin the regular season against the visiting Baltimore Orioles are remote.
“Absolutely,” he said. “They don’t want to rush it. If you rush you can end up making it worse. I’m going based off them.”
Franklin was expected to form a platoon at second with Logan Forsythe. Franklin’s absence creates more opportunities for Tim Beckham, Jake Elmore and Alexi Casilla, who are in the mix for the final spot in the infield.
Cash said it also creates more of an opportunity for Forsythe.
“Logan’s done a really good job this spring,” Cash said. “He’s hit the ball well. It’s not like we’ve been matching him up. I’m not saying that we won’t but he’s done a pretty nice job, and we’d be totally comfortable with him over there.”
RHP Grant Balfour made his spring debut in the sixth inning of Monday’s 7-6 loss to the Pirates.
He allowed one hit — a two-strike, two-out home run by Gorkys Hernandez.
“The reality is I could care less about the results I got,” Balfour said. “I wanted to go out and feel good and feel nice and smooth in my delivery.”
Balfour was pleased that he was able to pitch at the bottom of the strike zone, with the exception of the pitch he left up to Hernandez. He also liked that he was hitting 91 mph with his fastball.
“For the first time out, I’m happy with that,” he said. “It’s something to build off of. That’s where I was last year starting the season, so I have a bit of time to build on that.”
Both Balfour and Cash feel Balfour will be ready by Opening Day. He is scheduled to pitch four more times this spring.
Said Cash, “I’m fairly optimistic he’ll be good to go.”
Said Balfour, “I got no doubt in my mind.”
Rays LHP Drew Smyly (shoulder tendinitis) threw 30 pitches Monday in his second bullpen session. Cash said it went well.
RHP Alex Colome, who missed a week because of pneumonia, threw 20 pitches in his first bullpen session since he rejoined the team.
OF Brandon Guyer has a mild left ankle sprain but is expected to get between six and nine at-bats Wednesday in a minor-league game.
C Rene Rivera (left calf tightness) is expected to play Wednesday.
OF Steven Souza Jr., who was not scheduled to play until after today’s off day as a precautionary for leaving Friday’s game with a cramp in his forearm, played Monday and was struck on the right forearm with a pitch in the fifth inning. He left the game but that was his final at-bat of the day. He said he is fine.
LHP Jake McGee (elbow surgery) will throw a 30-pitch bullpen today.
The Rays reassigned OF Taylor Motter and 1B Allan Dykstra to minor-league camp Monday, reducing the number of players in camp to 48. ... RHP Nathan Karns will throw two innings with 15 pitches per inning today in a minor-league game. ... 3B Evan Longoria, hit on the left triceps with a pitch in the fifth inning, is fine, Cash said. ... The Rays scored four runs in the fifth inning on one hit (a triple by LF David DeJesus), four walks and two hit batters.