Rays surprisingly get All-Star back in lineup, and he could make a difference in final week of AL wild card race

The Tampa Bay Rays entered Sunday with a one-game lead over Cleveland in the race for the second wild card spot in the American League. The Rays will have an unexpected face in their lineup for the season's final week: rookie second baseman Brandon Lowe, who hasn't appeared in a big-league game since July 2:

Lowe had previously been ruled out for the season, having suffered a shin contusion to go along with his strained quad. "He's done for the year," manager Kevin Cash had said back in August, according to the Tampa Bay Times. Cash added: "I think that's the best way to say it. And if he comes back early, great."

Lowe's reemergence could indeed be great for the Rays. In 76 games this season, he'd hit .276/.339/.523 (126 OPS+) with 16 home runs and five stolen bases. Lowe was an All-Star and had been a legitimate Rookie of the Year Award candidate prior to missing the past two-plus months.

At minimum, Lowe's reemergence should allow Cash to sit either Joey Wendle or Matt Duffy, depending on the day. Wendle and Duffy are each having awful seasons to date: Wendle has a 65 OPS+, Duffy's is slightly better at 74. As such, Lowe doesn't have to produce at his previous levels to represent an upgrade.

CBS Sports Staff

R.J. Anderson joined CBS Sports in 2016. He previously wrote for Baseball Prospectus, where he contributed to five of the New York Times bestselling annuals. His work has also appeared in Newsweek and... Full Bio

Our Latest Stories