Though frustrated, Josh Lowe knows Rays need him healthy for long haul

PORT CHARLOTTE — It’s not an easy thing for a player to balance.

Josh Lowe knows he needs to rest his strained right oblique the next few days in order to get back on the field as quickly as possible. But there was no escaping the harsh reality Monday morning that he likely will find himself on the injured list while the Rays start the season without him.

As the rightfielder spoke openly about his frustration, bags on the floor were being packed for his teammates to be sent ahead to Tropicana Field in preparation for the March 28 opener against the Blue Jays.

“It’s not easy,” Lowe admitted. “I think being a competitor, being someone who’s always on the field and always available, this is something that’s frustrating for me. But at the same time, that’s where it kind of comes into being a good teammate; understanding that the team needs me for the long haul. Nobody remembers what we did the first two weeks of April last year, for the most part.

“We didn’t advance in the playoffs. That’s what matters. So, I need to be healthy for those games.”

Lowe is shut down for five to seven days with what he and the Rays called a “mild, Grade 1″ strain. He isn’t expected back until at least the second week of the season, manager Kevin Cash said Sunday.

Lowe fought the urge to say he’d be back soon.

“Don’t really want to put a timeline on it,” he said, “but just let it heal and get back in there.”

Lowe said the injury came on gradually through work in the batting cage. It happened just as he was coming off rehab for left hip inflammation. He played in just two spring games before being shut down with the hip issue on Feb. 27.

Lowe has just four plate appearances this spring. Hitting coach Chad Mottola likes hitters to have about 30 spring at-bats to be ready, but Lowe wasn’t sure how long his ramp-up would be.

In 135 games last season, he hit .292 with 20 home runs and 32 stolen bases. Defensively, he made just two errors in rightfield while racking up six Defensive Runs Saved. He also served as the primary backup for centerfielder Jose Siri.

Roster moves

After Monday’s 7-3 win over the Braves, the Rays sent five players to minor-league camp, including infielder Osleivis Basabe, who played 20 games at shortstop late last season after Wander Franco was placed on administrative leave while authorities in the Dominican Republic investigate accusations of a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old girl.

“A player that we really liked a lot,” Cash said of Basabe. “We need to get him consistent reps down there. He’ll play short and continue to play all over. But he helped us in a big way last year, and I imagine that he will play a big part of our season throughout this (season) as well.”

The Rays also sent down catcher Nick Meyer, who hit a home run Monday, as well as right-handed pitcher Edwin Uceta, and infielders C.J. Hinojosa and Ronny Simon.

What a relief

Chris Devenski allowed a run on three hits over two innings, striking out two. Relievers Phil Maton and Jason Adam each allowed a run in their inning.

Cash said he is happy with how his relievers are wrapping up the spring.

“I thought all of our pitchers looked pretty good. It’s good to see those guys,” Cash said. “Devenski is featuring the breaking ball and is pretty comfortable with that. And then Maton and Jason Adam (had) ... good springs. Joe Record was good. Manny (Rodriguez), he looked good. Kevin Kelly needed a little bit of a better outing, but we didn’t make the play for him early on and drove up his pitch count.

“But all of them look good.”

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