June 26: The Rays have officially reinstated Franco, per broadcaster Neil Solondz, with Jonathan Aranda being optioned in a corresponding move.
June 25: The Rays are hopeful of activating shortstop Wander Franco from the 10-day injured list on Sunday, manager Kevin Cash told reporters (including The Tampa Bay Times’ Marc Topkin). Franco hasn’t played since May 30 due to a right quad strain, though he did rejoin the Rays today after finishing a five-game minor league rehab assignment. Cash said that Franco will meet with team trainers before the official go-ahead is given to reinstate him to the active roster.
Quad and hamstring problems bothered Franco even prior to his IL stint, as Cash said that for “maybe a month’s worth of games, he just wasn’t himself.” This is reflected in Franco’s splits, since the star shortstop posted a .912 OPS in his first 87 plate appearances of the season, but then slumped to a .566 OPS over 103 PA in May.
However, Franco now appears to be healthy, and ready to fully build on his excellent 2021 rookie season. Considering baseball’s top prospect before his debut last season, the 21-year-old Franco lived up to those high expectations, to the point that the Rays jumped to extend him via the biggest contract in club history.
Getting Franco back into the everyday lineup will be a huge help for a Rays team that hasn’t gotten much consistent hitting. Tampa’s typically excellent pitching (particularly the rotation) has helped keep the Rays afloat in the tough AL East, as the Rays still have a 39-32 record and are in possession of a wild card berth. Getting even average hitting would help the Rays solidify that playoff positioning, and perhaps help them cut into the Yankees’ big division lead.
Franco isn’t the only reinforcement on the way, as Drew Rasmussen is tentatively slated to return during the Rays’ upcoming series (June 30-July 3) against the Blue Jays. Rasmussen was retroactively placed on the 15-day IL due to a hamstring strain on June 12, and more will be known about his status once he completes three innings of live batting practice today at the Rays’ Spring Training facility.
Pete Fairbanks is also on the comeback trail, as the right-hander has yet to pitch this season after suffering a partial lat tear in March. Fairbanks is scheduled for his own live BP session on Monday and then a Florida Coast League game on Thursday, and may join Triple-A Durham for a rehab assignment afterwards.