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Rays’ Colin Poche headed for Tommy John surgery

Lefty reliever had an impressive rookie season but had not pitched well in Spring 2.0. Now he's out until at least late 2021.
 
Rays relief pitcher Colin Poche will miss all of this season and a good chunk of 2021.
Rays relief pitcher Colin Poche will miss all of this season and a good chunk of 2021. [ CHRIS URSO | Times ]
Published July 21, 2020|Updated July 22, 2020

ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays got their first really bad news of the season, with lefty reliever Colin Poche headed for Tommy John surgery after being diagnosed with a torn ligament in his elbow.

Poche, who showed great promise as a rookie last year, will be out until late in the 2021 season, if not until 2022.

“We all feel awful for Colin, as hard working a guy as anybody, as quality a guy, a person, a teammate as anybody,” manager Kevin Cash said. “As far as the impact it has on our bullpen, it’s pretty significant.”

Poche’s absence amplifies a question about the team’s left-handed relief corps.

Related: All of our Rays preview section stories in one place

They will have to count more on Jose Alvarado, who has had an uneven Spring 2.0 coming off a 2019 season mostly lost due to injuries and family issues, and 32-year-old Aaron Loup, who made the team coming off an injury-abbreviated 2019 with San Diego and a tough 2018 with the Blue Jays and Phillies.

Other options for high-leverage lefty relief work could be converted starters Anthony Banda and Jalen Beeks, or prospect Shane McClanahan. Also of note, right-handers Oliver Drake and Pete Fairbanks are effective against left-handed hitters.

Poche, 26, made it to the majors in June 2019, posting a 5-5, 4.70 record with two saves and 72 strikeouts in 51 2/3 innings, but he had not looked sharp in Spring 2.0. This will be his second Tommy John surgery, the other coming after his sophomore year at Arkansas.

With Poche going to the 45-day injured list, the Rays added catcher Kevan Smith to their 40-man roster.

Smith had been on a minor-league deal that included an out clause, and the Rays chose to promote rather than lose him. He now seems likely to make the 30-man opening-day roster behind Zunino and projected backup Michael Perez. The Rays had already lost one experienced catching option when Chris Herrmann opted out on Sunday.

Pitcher Dylan Covey had a similar clause. But when the Red Sox agreed to put Covey on their 40-man roster, the Rays had to decide whether to add him, so he is headed to Boston.

The moves leave the Rays with 55 players in their 60-man player pool, as Poche and Austin Meadows, who is on the injured list for a positive COVID-19 test, don’t count against the limit.

Snell, Glasnow not sharp

A Tyler Glasnow-Blake Snell showdown was kind of a letdown.

Neither pitcher was particularly sharp in their final tuneup before the start of the regular season, although both said they felt good physically and would be prepared to go when their turn in the rotation came around.

Snell faced 10 batters, giving up four walks and two hits over two innings while bouncing at least five breaking pitches in the dirt in front of home plate, throwing 47 total. Both innings were shut down with two outs to limit his pitch count.

“I’ve got to trust my fastball and attack hitters a lot better than I did,” Snell said. “Four walks is terrible, but I’m just getting going, so I can be as hard as I am on myself.”

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Glasnow was a little sharper, going three innings, giving up four walks and two hits with five strikeouts, though he did allow the hardest hit ball of the night, a homer by Ji-Man Choi to right.

“The feel for things just wasn’t there today. I just couldn’t get my curveball over, and it let guys sit on the heater,” Glasnow said. “But I’m pleased with where I’m at.”

With Charlie Morton pitching Friday’s season opener and Ryan Yarbrough on Saturday, Glasnow and Snell are likely to slot in Sunday and Monday. “Fair to say Blake and Tyler were not as sharp as we’ve seen,” Cash said. “But that’s understandable given the workload restraints we’ve been under.”

With the shortened camp, Snell said he’s not quite as stretched out as much as he would like to be going into the season, which could limit his innings early on: “I feel like I’m in the third week of spring training; I don’t feel like I’m 100 percent from what I’m used to. Physically I feel great, from that standpoint I am 100 percent. I’m just a couple of weeks away.”

Miscellany

The dark blue and light blues tied 3-3 in the second-to-last instrasquad game of the spring. … Catching prospect Ronaldo Hernandez had a second straight big day, with a homer and an RBI double. ... Brandon Lowe made a nifty sliding catch in right. ... Second baseman Joey Wendle made an impressive dive to rob Choi of a hit. ... Seiya Sano, who came over from Japan with Yoshi Tsutsugo to serve as a liaison and lefty batting practice pitcher, played leftfield the final three innings. ... Though no fans are allowed in, the Rays are selling commemorative opening-day tickets for $3, with proceeds to the team’s charitable foundation. Go to raysbaseball.com/auctions, call (727) 342-5731 or email raysretail@rankandrally.com. ... Eight sponsor banners were spread over empty seats in the outfield.