NORTH PORT — Nick Anderson, the Rays’ highest-leverage reliever, will miss at least the first half of the season due to a partially torn ligament in his elbow.
The diagnosis came after a rough Wednesday outing in which Anderson’s velocity was down about 5 mph to the 90-91 range and he allowed hits to four of six batters.
Anderson, 30, will rest for eight weeks with the team, hoping he then will be able to start throwing with no issues and begin building up arm strength, though he may not be ready to pitch in major-league games until August. As a result, he is likely to be placed on the 60-day injured list.
Anderson had an MRI on Thursday, which was then reviewed by Rays team orthopedic Dr. Koco Eaton and specialist Dr. Keith Meister. Both agreed on the conservative plan, and no surgery was recommended.
Anderson said after Wednesday’s game that he had experienced some tightness in his elbow during his previous outing a week earlier, and “a little bit” of soreness and inflammation afterward — enough that he rested a few days — but that it felt better now, and attributed his performance to his mechanics being off.
“Took a couple days off and then kind of back on the train now,” Anderson said then. “Things are feeling pretty good.”
Manager Kevin Cash said early Thursday morning that there was no update, and in talking with Anderson briefly after the game, he did not seem concerned. “I have not spoken with him (today); after the game it was very brief — the elbow felt fine and he had more in the tank,” Cash said. “He expressed he was working on mechanics.’'
With Anderson out, it is likely Diego Castillo and Pete Fairbanks will assume a heftier workload in high-leverage situations. Anderson’s injury also creates an open spot on the 25-man roster for next week’s opener, and on the 40-man roster if he ends up on the 60-day injured list.
Anderson has played a huge role in the Rays’ bullpen since being acquired from Miami in July 2019, going 3-0, 2.11 with 41 strikeouts and two walks in 21 1/3 innings the rest of that season.
He was dominant in limited action last season, allowing one earned run and five hits total (one to a right-handed hitter) while striking out 26 over 16 1/3 innings around a two-week stint on the injured list (forearm inflammation).
Anderson was used heavily in the postseason, and that showed as the Rays advanced, allowing runs in a record seven straight games, including after relieving Blake Snell in the sixth inning of that decisive World Series Game 6.
Anderson said afterward that he felt fatigued though not injured, and added this spring there also was a mental strain from the pandemic protocols. He started throwing later than usual during the offseason and said he came into camp a little behind.
In four outings this spring covering 3 2/3 innings, Anderson allowed seven hits and recorded two strikeouts.
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