Taylor Walls to take over as Rays’ starting shortstop

Ivy Ceballo/Tampa Bay Times/TNS

CLEVELAND — The Rays reinstated Taylor Walls from the injured list Friday and plan to install him in their lineup as the everyday shortstop.

Walls had been out for six weeks with a left oblique strain. The Rays also reinstated rookie reliever Kevin Kelly, who was sidelined for two weeks with a left ankle sprain, as teams league-wide could expand their rosters Friday from 26 players to 28.

Walls, a switch-hitter with a .211 average and .675 OPS, had been used primarily to fill in around the infield before he was hurt in late July. But with Wander Franco out indefinitely, Walls, an elite defender, will become the primary shortstop. Franco was placed on administrative leave by MLB last month while multiple investigations continue into allegations of inappropriate relationships with one or more minors.

Osleivis Basabe, who has handled most of the work at shortstop since Franco was removed from the roster on Aug. 14, will be used to fill in at second base, third base and shortstop when a starter needs a day off or for matchup purposes.

“We want (Walls) to defend like he’s defended all season long,” manager Kevin Cash said. “Offensively, just do everything he can to kind of move the ball and help us when guys are on base to just have some good at-bats. The good thing with Wallsy is he sees the ball very well. You don’t see him expand out of the zone very often. That’s going to translate eventually; maybe it does this month.”

Cash said Basabe, a 22-year-old who wasn’t expected in the majors this season, will continue to help: “‘O’ has done a tremendous job. We’re very fortunate the way he’s played.”

Walls, who completed a rain-abbreviated two-game rehab assignment with Triple-A Durham on Thursday, said he felt over the oblique issue and ready to play a key role, likely starting Saturday.

“I feel great,” Walls said. “I feel I can go out there and do what I need to do without any restraints, so that’s good. Just excited to be back, excited to try to finish this last month and stretch and make a playoff run.”

Walls does have one other issue: His wife, Hallie, is due to deliver their second child, a son, on Sept. 25. But they are expecting an early arrival.

“At this point, it could happen at any second,” Walls said. “Hopefully, in the perfect world, it happens when I’m (home) and I can try to go back and forth (from the hospital to Tropicana Field). But right now the phone (ringer) is on loud, and I’m expecting a phone call at any point.”

Kelly has been the Rays’ most heavily used reliever, working 54-1/3 innings over 48 appearances with a 3.48 ERA. He said he is ready to return. “Obviously a valuable piece to our bullpen coming back,” Cash said.

Pitching changes coming

Right-hander Chris Devenski, the 32-year-old veteran reliever signed this week after being released by the Angels, is slated to join the Rays on Saturday. Jalen Beeks, who worked the eighth, could be the one to go to make room.

Cash said the Rays may try to stretch Devenski out to work in two-three inning stints. That could happen in the majors or Triple-A, as Devenski agreed to allow the Rays to option him, which they otherwise couldn’t do since he has more than five years of big-time time.

Rookie Taj Bradley, who went 5-7 with a 5.67 ERA in 16 starts before being sent to Durham on July 31, is expected to be called up and start Sunday. That will restore the Rays to a five-man rotation, which they need as they are in a stretch of games on 17 straight days.


Luke Raley, who grew up in nearby Hinckley, Ohio, had about 100 relatives and friends at Progressive Field for his first big-league game in Cleveland. He played one high school game at the stadium. ... Counting last year’s Wild Card Series, the Rays have lost five straight in Cleveland.

• • •

Sign up for the Sports Today newsletter to get daily updates on the Bucs, Rays, Lightning and college football across Florida.

Never miss out on the latest with your favorite Tampa Bay sports teams. Follow our coverage on Twitter and Facebook.