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Rays place Brandon Lowe on the IL with back inflammation

Former top prospect Vidal Brujan has been recalled to fill in for the second baseman, who missed a large portion of the 2022 season with back issues.

Brandon Lowe of the Tampa Bay Rays hits a two-run home run against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on May 31, 2023 in Chicago, Illinois. Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Rays have gotten off to a league-leading 42-19 start despite several injuries to key pieces, and the team will now need to keep that going without its starting second baseman. Brandon Lowe, who was held out of Sunday’s win over the Boston Red Sox with a back issues, was placed on the IL on Monday due to what’s being officially called inflammation:

There’s not yet a timetable for his return to action, but it’s an especially foreboding diagnosis considering Lowe’s recent injury history. The 28-year-old looked like a budding star after popping 39 homers and driving in 99 runs with a 140 OPS+ in 2021. But he played just 65 games last season amid multiple trips to the injured list — one in mid-May, the other in early September — with back pain that sapped all of his power at the plate. Both team and player were optimistic that Lowe was healthy and ready to bounce back entering 2023, but he’d gotten off to a slow start this year, hitting just .199 with nine homers across his first 50 games.

Vidal Brujan has been called up from Triple-A Durham to take Lowe’s place on the roster. A former top prospect — thanks in large part to eye-popping steal numbers in the Minors — Brujan has yet to show that he can hit enough to put that speed to use in the Major Leagues. The utility man carries a lifetime .161/.215/.233 slash line into what will be his fourth stint with the Rays, with three homers and a 6-for-12 stolen base rate. He wasn’t off to the best start in Triple-A this year, with a .768 OPS.

If Brujan doesn’t pan out (and Lowe’s back injury turns out to be a long-term concern), Tampa does have other options in the Minors. Foremost among them is Curtis Mead, an international signing out of Australia who entered the year as MLB Pipeline’s No. 33 overall prospect. He crushed his way through three levels of the Minors across 2021 and 2022, but the 22-year-old has slumped a bit to start this season, hitting just .221/.286/.361 with only two homers in Durham.