ST. PETERSBURG — Tyler Glasnow stared into the plate, peeking above the glove covering his face, and with a big leg kick fired pitch after filthy pitch Tuesday morning at Tropicana Field. In addition to bringing his normal heat, he froze hitters with tumbling sliders and paralyzing curve balls.
The results were excellent: 49 pitches (28 strikes) over 3 1/3 innings while allowing only one hit, one walk and striking out four in a simulated game.
But what was even more startling was the fact Glasnow pitched so well and deep on his first day back from a 14-day quarantine as the first known Rays player to test positive for COVID-19.
“I mean, you guys watched for the most part. People who saw it, he looked really, really good,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “So credit to him for being able to put the work in and being able to throw four innings right out of the gate.”
Glasnow, 26, said he tested positive for coronavirus during the intake screening but had only “mild cold symptoms” and a brief loss of smell and taste, but otherwise “felt fine” during his bout with the respiratory illness.
He was able to work out and keep his arm in shape during his hiatus. The routine consisted of running, lifting weights at home and throwing into a net at area fields during odd times, so as not to draw attention to himself and continue safe social distancing.
“It’s awesome to be back,” Glasnow said. “I was quarantined for a while and before, you’re not around people as much, so it’s nice to get back in that team atmosphere and everybody is joking around. It’s just nice to see coaches again. ... It’s nice to be around the team and feel like you’re getting better.”
Glasnow said he passed the two requisite negative tests in order to rejoin the team. On Tuesday, he left no doubt that he is on pace with the other pitchers and ready to start the 60-game season on time.
“He’s going to have a huge impact on our season, there’s no question about that,” Rays pitching coach Kyle Snyder said. “The talent is just so obvious. Really, over the last couple of years, it’s just a matter of getting him healthy. But right now, he could be a force at the front end of the rotation for a long time. Hopefully, it’s with us for a long time. But just to have him back, the confidence that’s going to give the remainder of the staff going into a 60-game sprint season, it really is phenomenal. It’s really going to pay off for us down the road.”
Glasnow may have the biggest upside of the Rays’ starters, which is saying something considering the rotation includes Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell and Charlie Morton, a World Series champion with the Houston Astros who led Tampa Bay with a 16-6 record last year.
Glasnow started 2019 5-0 with a 1.75 earned-run average and was named the American League Pitcher of the Month for April. But an arm strain wiped out much of the season, and he returned to make only four more starts in September.
He had been one of four Rays players not seen working out with the group since Spring 2.0 camp started July 3. Three others remain elusive: infielder Jose Martinez, outfielder Randy Arozarena, starter Yonny Chirinos. Two others were seen on the field early in camp, but not in more than a week since: outfielder Austin Meadows and pitcher Brendan McKay.
Glasnow said he didn’t know where he contracted the virus. He said he had no problem revealing his positive test for COVID-19.
“I think it’s a personal thing, I guess,” Glasnow said. “I don’t mind if you know I had it. I feel good, I’m back and healthy and everything. I think it’s just up to the individual.”
Glasnow arrived to the Trop early Tuesday and was bouncing around the ballpark, a 6-foot-8, 225-pound bundle of energy who greeted teammates and smiled easily. He rode the stationary bicycle, stretched his long legs in the outfield and generally made his presence felt by everyone.
Snyder was confident Glasnow could handle the workload because he and the Rays had been able to utilize technology to monitor him during the quarantine.
“I was extremely pleased with what he’s been doing, especially given the last couple weeks,” Snyder said. “He’s been on his own to prepare him for three innings today and the fourth up, but I honestly, considering what he’s done to prep himself for today and today went basically as planned, I couldn’t be more pleased with what we saw out of Tyler.”
Catcher Mike Zunino was not surprised how Glasnow arrived ready to deal on the mound.
“It was nothing short of what he did last year,” Zunino said. “He’s in great shape. The ball was coming out good. It’s one of those things, he’s seeing live hitters now. He’s got a little bit of adrenalin, so it’s going to be one of those adjustments now of finding sights. But I think to get four (innings) today was huge and his stuff definitely wasn’t lacking today.”
Staff writer Marc Topkin contributed to this report.