10th of July: The Rays have officially announced that Franco and Kiermaier have been placed on the 10-day IL while being left-handed Jeffrey Springs was put on the 15-day IL because of tightness in the right lower leg. Right Calvin Faucher was also optioned to Triple-A Durham. To take those four spots on the list, they actually recalled Raley and Aranda, as well as Lefty Josh Fleming and right Phoenix Sanders.
July 9th: The Rays lost two regulars to the 10-day injury list, as Wander Franco and Kevin Kiermaier both have failed. As previously reported, Franco left today’s game as coach due to injuries to his right hand and wrist Kevin Cash told reporters (including Tampa Bay Times’ Marc Topkin) that the initial diagnosis was that the injury was related to Franco’s hamate bone. Franco will see doctors on Monday to determine the extent of the problem and if surgery is required he could be out for around 6-8 weeks.
Franco had to be removed after his first-ever at-bat, a first-inning strikeout Hunter Greene. On the penultimate pitch of the Plate performance, Franco looked shaken after fouling a Greene fastball, and he was substituted in field for the end of the inning.
Kiermaier played most of Saturday’s 5-4 loss to the Reds when the midfielder was replaced by a pinch-runner after a single in the ninth inning. During the game, however, Kiermaier experienced more discomfort in his left hip – the same problem forced Kiermaier to IL at the end of June, despite only missing the at least 10 days before his activation.
Given the recurring nature of the hip problem, it seems likely Kiermaier will miss more than 10 days, although the upcoming All-Star hiatus could span four days of this IL stint. Unless the Rays want to monitor Kiermaier to make sure the hip pain is completely behind him, Kiermaier could be activated as early as July 22 when the Rays start their second half with a series in Kansas City.
Even if Franco can avoid surgery, he will still need at least a few weeks of recovery time. The sophomore star has scored .260/.308/.396 on 247 plate appearances this season – still above average (1o4 wRC+) production but obviously a disappointment given the high expectations sparked by Franco’s top prospect status and a stellar 2021 were rookie season. Franco got off to a great start before quad injuries hampered his game in May and that quad issue eventually sent him to the IL for four weeks.
Topkin writes this outfielder Luke Raley and infielders Jonathan Aranda are likely to be called up to replace Franco and Kiermaier in the active squad. Aranda made his MLB debut in the way of a cup of coffee earlier this season, playing in two games. He’ll probably get in Taylor Walls‘ Utility infield role as Walls is likely to resume daily shortstop duty (as he did during Franco’s last IL stint).
Raley is also a left-handed outfielder, so in that sense he’s an easy replacement for Kiermaier in Tampa Bay’s outfield mix. However, there’s obviously no way to simply replace Kiermaier’s all-world defense, though backup Brett Phillips is a solid defender in his own right (although right field is Phillip’s best outfield position from a glovework standpoint). Phillips and Josh Lowe are the most likely candidates to manage midfield while Kiermaier is out, and Vidal Brujan also numbers to the chip in the middle. Manuel Margot is out until at least the end of August with a patellar tendon strain and while the Rays are optimistic that Margot will play again in 2022, anything he can contribute going forward could be seen as a bonus.
While neither Franco nor Kiermaier have been outstanding on the plate this season, their dual absences will likely only add to the Rays’ already evident need for more batting help come deadline day. Especially with Franco sidelined until September, Tampa will need more consistent lineup performance if the team is to both qualify for the postseason and be a legitimate contender in October. As usual, the Rays probably won’t break the bank on a new acquisition, but positional player depth (whether an everyday name or a multi-position part-timer) certainly seems to be a priority.