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Monday, Sep 24, 2018
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Rays journal: C.J. Cron gets caught in numbers game

ST. PETERSBURG — 1B/DH C.J. Cron is in a difficult spot with the Rays, trying to build on career-high numbers without the opportunity for regular playing time.

Now the question is whether he ends the season playing somewhere else.

Cron has cleared waivers, which means he could be traded by Aug. 31 to any team and be eligible for postseason play. (Though it also means no team claimed him for the minimal money, around $500,000, remaining of his $2.3 million salary.)

Potentially related, scouts from a half-dozen contenders were at the Trop on Tuesday, though RHP Sergio Romo (whom the Rays don't seem to want to move) and/or some Royals could also be their targets.

Cron is hitting .250 with 24 home runs, 59 RBIs and an .800 OPS, starting 104 of the 126 games.

"Right now it's gotten to the point where it's a delicate situation,'' manager Kevin Cash said of the playing time (not the waiver status, which teams don't acknowledge or address). "I understand that. I've tried to talk to C.J. The conversations have gone well. I've been honest with him.

"There are players on this roster right now we want to get some looks at, and in fairness to him they're going to come at the expense of some of his at-bats. They're going to come at the expense of a lot of guys' at-bats. You look at what C.J.'s done. He still leads our team in at-bats (408 going into Tuesday), and he's going to continue to get a lot. But the consistency of going out there for 10 straight games is probably not going to happen. It's not ideal for any player, especially in a situation where he's trying to continue to have a good season, get his numbers and, ultimately, make some money. I recognize all that. And it's very sensitive.''

Pham has good, bad night

Moving slumping OF Tommy Pham up to second in the order to give him a different look seemed to help as he had a three-hit night Tuesday against the Royals after coming in 0-for-his-last-15 and 2-for-22 since the July 31 trade. More importantly, Pham seemed to escape serious injury when he dislocated his right ring finger diving back to first in the eighth. After head athletic trainer Joe Benge popped the finger back into place, Pham's considered day to day pending the swelling going down. "I thought I broke it, my finger was pointing the other direction,'' he said. "I got lucky. … Cash thinks the source of 3B Matt Duffy's post-All Star break struggles (.202 with .485 OPS, compared to .317, .784) might be the cumulative effect of playing almost every day after missing all of last season with an injury. As a result, he plans to give Duffy more time off.

Game boys

Rays 3B Matt Duffy and Royals OF Brett Phillips have been playing the oh-so-popular Fortnite video game as teammates, talking to each other over the accompanying headsets, for the past nine months. But they never actually had met in reality until Monday at the Trop. "Pretty funny,'' Duffy said. They were teamed online by a mutual friend, Rays INF Christian Arroyo, and now play together often. "He's good,'' Duffy said. "A lot better than I am.''

Home boy

Royals OF Brett Phillips, a Seminole High product, was touched by the turnout of several hundred relatives, friends and former teammates on Monday, his first pro game at the Trop. "It's a special moment, obviously, getting to play major-league baseball in your hometown,'' he said. "Super exciting. Just crazy to see the amount of people that came out in support. You don't know how many people you impacted until they're all in one place. That was so special and super humbling.''

Miscellany

• RHP Ryne Stanek will be the opener Wednesday night, with RHP Yonny Chirinos working the bulk of the innings.

• The Rays are selling new T-shirts (above) that play off LHP Blake Snell's social media/video game nickname "Snellzilla" and the Japanese Godzilla movie monster, $36 at the team store.

• Among teams who might be looking to buy with top scouts at the Trop on Tuesday: the Cardinals (Mike Jorgensen) and Red Sox (Allard Baird), plus the Braves, D'backs and Yankees.
• LHP Vidal Nuno (hamstring) worked three scoreless innings for the advanced Class A Stone Crabs on Tuesday in his second rehab outing, allowing three hits while striking out four with no walks.

• Before throwing out the first pitch Saturday, Hall of Famer Wade Boggs will sign autographs from 4:10-5:40 near Gate 1 for a $20 donation to the Ted Williams Museum scholarships.

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