The Rays are reinstating catcher Francisco Mejía from the 10-day injured list, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times was among those to pass along (Twitter link). Fellow backstop Kevan Smith was designated for assignment in a corresponding move.
Mejía went on the IL last week with left intercostal discomfort. It proved to be a minimal stay, as he returns ten days later to again pair with Mike Zunino behind the plate. Acquired from the Padres over the winter as part of the Blake Snell return, Mejía has gotten off to a fine start with his new team. Over his first 67 plate appearances, the switch-hitter has slashed .300/.348/.450 with a home run. That’s a rather significant improvement over the .225/.282/.386 mark he carried as a big leaguer entering 2021.
Obviously, Mejía will need more than a month of strong performance to cement himself as a foundational piece for the Rays, but he certainly carries the pedigree to do so. Mejía was once regarded among the top prospects in baseball as a potentially impactful bat-first catcher. He’s still just 25 years old and making contact at a career-best clip so far, although he hasn’t tamped down the overaggressive approach that contributed to his prior big league struggles.
With Mejía and Zunino healthy, the Rays determined there wasn’t place on the active roster for Smith, who is out of minor league option years. The 32-year-old was selected to the roster when Mejía went on the IL and only picked up five plate appearances over the past week-plus. The Rays now have a week to trade or waive Smith, who has been in the Tampa Bay organization over the past two seasons. Having previously been outrighted in his career, Smith would have the right to elect free agency in lieu of a minor league assignment if he clears waivers.