Royals’ Whit Merrifield ends streak of playing 553 straight games

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Royals infielder Whit Merrifield‘s streak of playing in a franchise-record 553 straight games ended when he missed the opener of a doubleheader against Detroit because of a toe injury.

Merrifield’s string dated to June 24, 2018, and was the longest active streak in the majors.

“It’s been a great run for Whit,” Kansas City manager Mike Matheny said. “It’s just been impressive the way he’s been able to go about it.”

Merrifield exited Sunday’s game with right toe discomfort. He was fitted with a walking boot and is expected to be placed on the injured list due to a bone bruise and ligament swelling.

“I’ve been lucky . in some instances, but I’ve put myself in a good position to play every day mentality-wise. I showed up to play no matter the circumstance. It’s been a long run and I’m proud of it,” he said.

The 33-year-old Merrifield is hitting .240 with 36 RBIs this season. The two-time All-Star led the AL with 42 doubles and 40 stolen bases last year.

Cal Ripken Jr. holds the all-time record of playing 2,632 straight games.


Colin Poche, Rays go to arbitration just $125,000 apart

Colin Poche torn UCL
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Reliever Colin Poche went to salary arbitration with the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday with the sides just $125,000 apart.

The gap between the $1.3 million the pitcher asked for and the $1,175,000 the team offered was the smallest among the 33 players who exchanged proposed arbitration figures last month. The case was heard by John Woods, Jeanne Vonhof and Walt De Treux, who will hold their decision until later this month.

A 29-year-old left-hander, Poche had Tommy John surgery on July 29, 2020, and returned to the major leagues last April 22 after six appearances at Triple-A Durham. Poche was 4-2 with a 3.99 ERA and seven saves in 65 relief appearances for the Rays. He struck out 64 and walked 22 in 58 2/3 innings.

Poche had a $707,800 salary last year.

Tampa Bay went to arbitration on Monday with reliever Ryan Thompson, whose decision also is being held until later this month. He asked for $1.2 million and the Rays argued for $1 million.

Rays right-hander Jason Adam and outfielder Harold Ramirez remain scheduled for hearings.

Players and teams have split four decisions thus far. All-Star pitcher Max Fried ($13.5 million) lost to Atlanta and reliever Diego Castillo ($2.95 million) was defeated by Seattle, while pitcher Jesus Luzardo ($2.45 million) and AL batting champion Luis Arraez ($6.1 million) both beat the Marlins.

A decision also is pending for Los Angeles Angels outfielder Hunter Renfroe.

Eighteen additional players are eligible for arbitration and hearings are scheduled through Feb. 17. Among the eligible players is Seattle utilityman Dylan Moore, who has a pending three-year contract worth $8,875,000.