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  1. Sports
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Sorting out how the Rays, Blake Snell feel about his ‘super sore’ elbow

The 2018 Cy Young Award winner took precautionary action to get a CT scan and a cortisone shot. He missed two months last season following elbow surgery.
Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Blake Snell, center, takes infield practice during the start of spring training in Port Charlotte, Florida on Thursday, February 13, 2020. [OCTAVIO JONES | Times]

PORT CHARLOTTE — Blake Snell said he was concerned.

That after his first spring start last week a spot on his left elbow, right where he had bone chips removed last year, felt “super sore.’’

Then he said he wasn’t concerned.

That testing showed no additional chips and merely inflammation, which he considers more annoying than anything, and that the cortisone shot he got on Friday would take care of it.

So how should the Rays feel about the status of their top lefty starter?

And, if you’ve been increasingly optimistic about the Rays’ chances to do really special things this season given the Yankees’ string of injuries and the Red Sox’s step back, how should you feel?

Realistically, no matter what anyone said on Sunday, it’s too early to say.

Snell won’t pick up a baseball until Tuesday. The rough plan is to start playing catch then, and if goes well for a few days with an increasing workload to throw a bullpen session on Friday. And if all goes well again to pitch in a game on March 8 or 9, starting the spring build-up all over again nearly two weeks later.

“We’ll just see how much time elapses,’’ manager Kevin Cash said. “How quickly he can ramp it back up.’’

Best case, Snell will be set back about a week into the regular season, missing a planned opening series start against the Pirates, then pitching either at the end of the next series against the Yankees or on the road against the Rangers.

On Sunday, neither Snell nor Cash would rule out being ready at the start of the season nor assure that he would be. Snell would likely to have been penciled in for the March 28 second game, with Charlie Morton working opening day.

Pitching coach Kyle Snyder would say only that he anticipates Snell being ready to go “in and around the start of the season.’’

If all Snell misses is one start at the front end, and he pitches the next six months uninterrupted, the Rays should very good about dodging what has, at least the potential, to be a big deal.

Consider what we do know:

Snell had surgery last July to remove six bone chips from his left elbow. He missed nearly two months. He came back in September to pitch in six games (three regular- three post-season), not throwing more than 3⅓ innings nor 62 pitches. He felt some soreness at the end of the playoffs.

And after his first spring game, he felt “more sore than normal,’’ and the spot on his outer elbow where the chips were removed was “super sore.’’

He took Thursday off from throwing, as he usually does the day after a start. When he played catch on Friday, he didn’t feel right. He assumed it was just inflammation, but felt it was significant enough to promptly call Snyder, who was driving to the game in West Palm Beach, to report what was happening to the athletic training staff, and to check back in with Snyder several times during the game.

Snell’s initial fear was that there was another chip floating in there.

“I thought it could have been,’’ he said. “I honestly thought it was just inflammation. Then I thought maybe the bone was just still sore from when the bones did just chip off of it. Then I thought it was scar tissue.

“I thought a lot of things. Probably just because I’m more worried about it because I actually had bone chips. I feel like if I didn’t have bone chips I wouldn’t be as aggressive with doing something. But since I had bone chips and it was in the same area, I just wanted to make sure I did everything to make sure I feel as good as I could feel when the season starts.’’

After a CT scan confirmed there was no new chip, inflammation was diagnosed and cortisone shot administered, Snell was both breathing easier and feeling better about taking precautionary measures.

Particularly because he figured if he didn’t do something now it not only would be more annoying as it was “just going to get worse and worse.’’

“Especially inflammation,’’ he said. “It just nags the whole time and it just sucks throwing that way. Then I have to cut all my throwing down and my bullpens are shorter and I can’t really work on anything. So by me doing this, it allows me to be able to work the way I want to work.’’

Snell had bragged about how good he felt going into camp, coming down to St. Petersburg in January to start working out at Tropicana Field, hiring a live-in personal chef to improve his diet, committing to spending more time sleeping and less staying up late playing video games.

He has his theories on why it hurt, that there was lingering soreness at the end of last season, that after resting most of the off-season the regular workload of being back in camp was agitative. In between saying Sunday how great he felt, he acknowledged the elbow had felt off for the last 10 days or so.

Snell, Cash and Snyder are all confident the shot will chase away the inflammation, and any need to worry.

“From that standpoint, I’m not concerned at all about it," Snell said. “Concerned enough to get a shot, yeah. Just cause the inflammation, just get it out because it was annoying. But from a throwing standpoint, I do feel great.’’

Concerned? Not concerned?

Check back in a few weeks.

Contact Marc Topkin at mtopkin@tampabay.com. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.

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