The Rays have been without injured catcher Mike Zunino for three weeks, but he could return as early as Friday, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports. Zunino went to the 10-day IL on May 9 with a left quad strain.
Injuries, not just to Zunino, have victimized Rays catchers this year. Zunino headed to the shelf just four days after an oblique strain sent fellow backstop Michael Perez to the IL. When the club lost Zunino, it promoted Anthony Bemboom as his replacement, but the latter wound up on the IL on May 15 with a knee sprain.
With only struggling minor league Nick Ciuffo to turn to as a healthy 40-man option, the banged-up Rays had to scour the trade market for help earlier this month. They acquired former Mets starter Travis d’Arnaud from the Dodgers on the 10th and landed journeyman Erik Kratz in a deal with the Giants on the 16th. Unfortunately for Tampa Bay, those two haven’t offered much help so far. D’Arnaud and Kratz have combined for seven hits (five singles, two doubles), 17 strikes and three walks in 52 plate appearances, essentially making them automatic outs.
Aside from Perez – who’s still dealing with “discomfort,” per Topkin – no Rays backstop has done much at the plate this season. That includes Zunino, though the ex-Mariner’s .220/.260/.407 line in 96 PA would be welcome for the Rays compared to what they’ve gotten from d’Arnaud and Kratz.
It seems likely the return of Zunino will lead to the end of Kratz’s time on the Rays’ 40-man roster. The 38-year-old’s out of minor league options and has been behind d’Arnaud in Tampa Bay’s pecking order.