By Bryan Levine, SunCoast Sports
PORT CHARLOTTE — Matt Duffy’s progression from heel surgery in September continues to be frustratingly slow for the Tampa Bay Rays’ shortstop.
Duffy went 0-for-2 in his third rehab start with the Charlotte Stone Crabs Saturday, but didn’t feel well enough to take a third at-bat.
“I just felt like with how it felt, if I had put the ball in play and had to run to first, I might’ve been doing more harm than good at that point,” Duffy said. “I got some work in. It felt good at times and it felt bad at times.”
His swing looked fine, however, as he sent a rocket line drive right back where it came from in the first inning, but it clipped Fort Myers Miracle starter Dereck Rodriguez in the back, and the pitcher recovered to throw Duffy out at first base.
“In terms of the at-bats, I felt really encouraged and happy with them tonight, for sure,” said Duffy, who also had a shallow pop up in at-bat No. 2.
In the field, Duffy made a highlight-worthy play in the second inning.
With a fairly drastic shift which had him shaded up the middle, Duffy had a long run to the first base side of the field, made a sliding stop, and fired to first in time to catch the runner.
“I didn’t feel any pressure to (extended myself to make that play),” Duffy said. “I played it like I would any time. I didn’t know if Brandon (Lowe) would have an easy play behind me. I felt like with me being closer in to the infield, I had a shorter throw. … It felt good. I think that’s the frustrating part for me. Sometimes it feels good and sometimes it feels bad.”
Duffy also had to cover second base twice on stolen base attempts in five innings of defensive work. The first time he made a nice pick on a short hop, but the throw was too late. He received a perfect throw and tagged the would-be base thief on the second attempt.
The Stone Crabs and Duffy both have the day off on Sunday.