Cash: Rays have plenty to play for in second half

Cash: Rays have plenty to play for in second half

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Tampa Bay Rays will open the second half in the cellar of the American League East, 17 1/2 games out of first and 15 1/2 games behind the Blue Jays for the second AL Wild Card.

They've dropped 22 of their past 25 games amid the worst stretch in the franchise's 18-year history. The 34-54 record at the All-Star break is their worst since 2005, and worst overall mark since their last day as the Devil Rays in '07.

Still, Rays manager Kevin Cash insists that the start of the second half means there's something on the line.

"There's always something to play for," Cash said. "It's Major League Baseball. You're competing. We've heard the storylines of teams that have been in large deficits and gotten really hot. And then, you've got to take the pride factor in and go out there and compete."

The Rays held an optional team workout on Thursday prior to their series opener at home against the first-place Orioles on Friday, and between 10-15 members of the active roster were in attendance. Cash, in his meeting with the media on Thursday, preached the need for improved consistency in all aspects of his team, highlighting the starting pitching and defense that has been suspect during this difficult stretch.

The skipper said it's been a difficult All-Star break, having to look at the standings and understand just how far back they are.

"We're going to have to make it [like a fresh start]. I don't know if it feels that way," Cash said. "We obviously haven't played the way we want. … Hopefully the guys started thinking about how we're going to get better from this point. It's not a fresh start. It's more a rest for a little bit."

Injury updates

Kevin Kiermaier will play center field in the first game of a doubleheader on Thursday for Class A Advanced Charlotte as he rehabs from a fractured left hand. Cash said Kiermaier may DH in the second game, and he hopes to have him back with Tampa Bay this weekend. The original plan was for Kiermaier to play for Charlotte on Wednesday and be activated Friday, but Wednesday's game was rained out. Cash didn't rule out a Friday return for Kiermaier.

Alex Cobb, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery in May 2015, was scheduled to throw a bullpen session Thursday, and then he will take three days off before making his next rehab appearance for Charlotte. He's made two appearances, and his most recent start was cut short after one inning due to fatigue. Cash said Cobb was not dealing with any additional injuries.

Steve Pearce, who is on the DL with a right hamstring strain, was scheduled to hit and take ground balls Thursday. He was planning to run again Thursday, and the hope is that Pearce will start playing in rehab games as soon as this weekend.

Sam Blum is a reporter for based in St. Petersburg. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.