The good news is that the Rays have Evan Longoria back tonight after the All-Star third baseman missed three games with strep throat.
The bad is that the team’s best hitter this year, Matt Joyce, is absent with what the Rays are calling “post-injection soreness” in his left shoulder.
Joyce received his second cortisone shot of the year due to lingering soreness in the shoulder and is dealing with pain around the injection area. He’s expected to be available to pinch-hit tonight, and the Rays are optimistic that he’ll be back in the lineup on Saturday.
Joyce is second in the AL in batting average this year. Having falled into a bit of a slump, he’s recently tumbled from second to fourth in OPS, with Miguel Cabrera and David Ortiz now in the place and show positions behind Jose Bautista. Joyce is hitting .338/.397/.590 with 10 homers and 34 RBI in 195 at-bats.
Since Joyce probably isn’t going to hit .340 all year, it’d help the Rays a lot if Longoria could step it up. He’s hitting .252/.360/.435 with just 13 RBI in 115 at-bats. He finished with an OPS in the .870-.890 range in each of his first three big-league seasons, but he’s at .795 right now.
CSN Philly’s Jim Salisbury reports that Phillies outfielder Nick Williams has been working out daily with free agent starter Jake Arrieta in Austin. The right-hander, who won the 2015 National League Cy Young Award, still remains teamless with spring training less than a month away. Williams has been trying to sell Arrieta on joining the Phillies.
Williams said of Arrieta, “He loves it here [Austin]. He has told me he likes working with young guys. I’m like, ‘All right, come on up.’ But I’m not writing the check. I don’t know what he wants. I don’t really dig into that because I’m not really in his position.”
On GM Matt Klentak’s hunt for pitching help, new manager Gabe Kapler said, “The pursuit is very real. I have a lot of trust that we’ll either go in [to spring training] with a new toy or we will pass on the opportunity because we’re better off giving this collection of pitchers a really healthy look because we thought that we could go acquire that piece a little bit later on this season or in the offseason next year.”
Arrieta, who turns 32 years old in March, went 14-10 with a 3.53 ERA and a 163/55 K/BB ratio in 168 1/3 innings last season with the Cubs. The Cubs, Cardinals, and Brewers have been linked to Arrieta this month.
Presently, the Phillies’ starting rotation figures to include Aaron Nola, Jerad Eickhoff, and Vince Velasquez along with some combination of Nick Pivetta, Ben Lively, Zach Eflin, Mark Leiter, and Jake Thompson. Arrieta would certainly amount to a big upgrade in the starting rotation and could make the Phillies a more attractive landing spot for Bryce Harper or Manny Machado, who become free agents after the 2018 campaign. The Phillies are expected to be in the mix for either or both players.