Tampa Bay Rays star SS Wander Franco back in lineup after two months on IL

NEW YORK — Shortstop Wander Franco was activated from the 10-day injured list by the Tampa Bay Rays after missing two months with a right hamate bone injury that required surgery.

The 21-year-old was batting second in Friday night’s series opener against the AL East-leading New York Yankees.

“We’re excited to get him back here. He’s such a big part of our club,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “He makes us better in the lineup. He makes us better defensively, and we’ll just see how it goes.”

Franco went on the IL July 10. An injury rehabilitation assignment with Triple-A Durham in mid-August was cut short in its first game when the former top prospect experienced a sore hand. He resumed play with Durham last Sunday and went 6 for 11 in three games.

“I’d be shocked if he doesn’t feel it. He’s going to feel it,” Cash said. “I don’t think that’ll go away until maybe next spring training rolls around. It’s a surgery that removed a bone so it makes sense that he’s feeling it. Now it’s just how he can manage it and how we can help him manage it.”

Double-play partner Brandon Lowe was happy to have Franco back.

“Feels like as full of a team as we can have right now,” Lowe said.

Franco agreed in November to an $182 milion, 11-year contract after he finished third in AL Rookie of the Year voting. He entered Friday batting .260 with five homers and 23 RBI in 58 games.

Second-place Tampa Bay designated infielder Yu Chang for assignment and optioned right-hander Yonny Chirinos to Triple-A Durham. Chirinos will remain with the big league club as a member of the taxi squad.

“He has been everything that we could have asked for,” Cash said of Chang. “I feel like he’s made every play defensively. He’s come up with some big hits.”