With Wander Franco away from the team, the rest of the Rays try to focus on what’s next


Share post:

SAN FRANCISCO – About the only reminder of Wander Franco in the visiting clubhouse here Monday afternoon was his name sliding across the bottom of a TV screen.

Franco’s presence came in the form of an MLB Network news crawl reminding viewers that the Tampa Bay Rays’ star shortstop would remain on the restricted list and miss at least the club’s six-game road trip.

Across the rest of the room, however, the Rays were already looking around the bend for what’s next, with much of the focus on Osleivis Basabe, the 22-year-old prospect who will take over at shortstop.

This was by design. Manager Kevin Cash wanted his contending team to avoid distractions. And when a star player vanishes under troubling circumstances in the heat of a pennant race, the opportunity for distractions is hardly insignificant.

“We trust that they will handle themselves appropriately knowing that there’s a lot going on good for us right now,’’ Cash said a few hours before facing the Giants at Oracle Park. “We want to keep it that way.”

Erik Neander, the Rays’ president of baseball operations, took a similar stance.

“I think over time players learn to control the things they can control and keep their attention where it needs to be,’’ he said via a conference call with reporters in San Francisco. “And this is a group that has demonstrated resiliency, they’ve demonstrated the next-man-up mentality. We have confidence that the 26 who are active are going to lock it in, be competitive and do their very best to try to chase the division down. So they’re professionals.”

These were the aftershocks of the Rays and Franco mutually agreeing that the star shortstop would go on the restricted list in the wake of online posts that alleged Franco, 22, engaged in an inappropriate relationship with a minor.

As the posts went viral on Sunday, the Rays acknowledged in a statement to multiple outlets that MLB is looking into the situation. The statement said the team is in “close contact” with the league as it conducts its “due diligence.” A league source confirmed to The Athletic that Major League Baseball has launched an official investigation into the matter.

It might be tough for the Rays to ignore the absence of their dynamic player for long. But on Monday, there was definitely a shut-up-and-play vibe as players dressed in front of their lockers.

“Honestly, I haven’t had a lot of communication with anybody about it,’’ Rays reliever Zack Littell said. “And I don’t know anything about the situation. So all we do is sit here and wait until more information comes out.”

Cash said he’s sensed that approach from other players and vowed that the Rays would minimize the disruption.

“Yeah, I’m confident in that,’’ the manager said. “It’s a good group. Lots of young players who bring a lot of energy. We have some veterans who have really done a nice job throughout the course of the season. … We’re playing good baseball, let’s see if we can continue that.”

Franco is one of only four players in the majors this season with at least 15 homers and 30 stolen bases. The others are Ronald Acuña Jr of the Atlanta Braves, Corbin Carroll of the Arizona Diamondbacks and Bobby Witt Jr. of the Kansas City Royals.

Now, Basabe, the Rays’ top infield prospect, will step into Franco’s shoes, and no one knows for how long. The native of Bobures, Venezuela was hitting .296 with four home runs, 58 RBI, 16 stolen bases and a .777 OPS through 94 games with Triple-A Durham. In his minor-league career, Basabe batted .311 with a .801 OPS.

Basabe got his first career major-league hit Sunday – a double on the first pitch he saw – in what was supposed to be a one-game cameo. The Rays were going to send him back to Triple-A on Monday. Instead, he traveled to San Francisco as part of an eventful and a tad surreal 24 hours.

“My phone blew up,’’ Basabe said before Monday’s game. “There were so many messages I didn’t have time to check all of them.”

Basabe promised to give the baseball from that milestone first hit to his grandfather. Grandpa responded playfully by texting him back Monday with a video asking, “Where’s my ball?” But the Rays will count on Basabe to keep those hits coming. He is the only true shortstop on the roster, although Isaac Paredes or Curtis Mead could also play there occasionally.

“(Basabe) did some nice things yesterday,’’ Neander said. “We like him. We’re not afraid to give him the opportunity. And that’s where we were right now.”

The Rays entered play Monday 9-6 in their past 15 games following an MLB-worst 5-15 stretch to open July. They slipped 3.0 games behind the first-place Baltimore Orioles after spending 113 consecutive days atop the division.

The Franco investigation runs the risk of a downward spiral. Instead, Neander likes the way the Rays have handled the first awkward step.

“It is a really good group,’’ he said. “And we’re confident they’re gonna go out there and show that.”

(Top photo of Osleivis Basabe: Robert Edwards-USA TODAY Sports)

Source link

Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams is a writer and editor. Angeles. She writes about politics, art, and culture for LinkDaddy News.

Recent posts

Related articles

Damian Lillard to the Bucks? A deal that makes the NBA say, ‘Holy (bleep)!’

The late, great Ben Bradlee, the longtime executive editor of the Washington Post, who shepherded that newsroom...

How do Miami Heat recover from not completing Damian Lillard trade? They can’t just stand pat

The Miami Heat haven’t experienced this feeling very often.Usually, when Pat Riley and the Heat organization set...

Nebraska flips Eric Ingwerson’s commitment from Pittsburgh: What’s Matt Rhule’s long-term play?

Tight end Eric Ingwerson of Papillion, Neb., flipped his commitment Wednesday from Pittsburgh to Nebraska, bringing the...

Why the Blackhawks believe Arvid Söderblom is their goalie of the future

There’s a lot of talk about the future about the Chicago Blackhawks these days.There’s, of course, Connor...

Thiago Almada ‘deserving’ of MLS-record transfer, says Atlanta United CEO

Thiago Almada already has his name next to a few MLS records and milestones.The 22-year-old star is...

PSG’s Dembele, Kolo Muani, Hakimi and Kurzawa summoned by LFP over allegations of offensive chanting vs Marseille

Paris Saint-Germain and four of their players, Ousmane Dembele, Randal Kolo Muani, Achraf Hakimi and Layvin Kurzawa,...

What led to Damian Lillard’s trade from Blazers to Bucks? A timeline of the offseason saga

In a blockbuster move Wednesday, the Portland Trail Blazers agreed to trade star guard Damian Lillard to...

Damian Lillard traded by Blazers to Bucks in 3-team deal involving Suns: Sources

The Portland Trail Blazers are trading All-NBA guard Damian Lillard to the Milwaukee Bucks in a three-team...