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Collin McHugh eager to rejoin Rays’ bullpen

Veteran right-hander, who has been one of the team’s top relievers, has been out since late July due to arm fatigue.
Rays relief pitcher Collin McHugh worked two or more innings in 10 of his last 11 appearances before going on the injured list.
Rays relief pitcher Collin McHugh worked two or more innings in 10 of his last 11 appearances before going on the injured list. [ ARIELLE BADER | Times ]
Published Aug. 7
Updated Aug. 8

BALTIMORE — The Rays welcomed back the first of what they hope will be several experienced relievers to their bullpen for the stretch run, activating Collin McHugh on Saturday from the injured list.

McHugh had been out since July 22 for what the team termed “arm fatigue,” the second stint on the injured list this season for the 34-year-old who sat out last season recovering from a flexor strain.

The Rays wasted no time getting the right-hander some work as he closed out Saturday’s 12-3 win over the Orioles with a scoreless ninth. McHugh gave up one hit, walked one, struck out two and threw 21 pitches.

McHugh has been one of the Rays’ most consistent relievers, especially since returning May 4 from his first injured list stint for a lower back strain, allowing one earned run in 19 appearances (including four as an opener) and 18 hits, striking out 54.

He also has been among their most valuable in handling extended stints, working two or more innings in 10 of his last 11 appearances, and 14 of 23 overall.

Manager Kevin Cash said having him back will be quite a boost.

“He was on a run that no other reliever in baseball was on,” Cash said before the game. “He feels good. We’re excited to have him back.”

McHugh, who received a cortisone shot, said he has been eager to return.

“Nobody ever wants to miss time during the year and especially not when they’re feeling good and throwing the ball well,” he said. “So ever since I had to go on the IL, I’ve been pushing them to make sure we get back as quick as possible. As soon as my arm felt normal, I was ready to go. And I’m excited and ready to be back with the boys.”

Louis Head, who had another solid outing in Friday’s 10-6 win, was sent down, ending his seventh stint in the majors during an up-and-down rookie season. In 14 appearances since his April 25 debut, Head is 1-0, 1.35 with 18 strikeouts in 20 innings.

“Those conversations aren’t fun, you guys know that,” Cash said. “So appreciative of Louis. … We’ve had countless injuries, and it seems like whoever we call on has really helped us. Louis is at the top of that list. So just gave him the message, ‘Stay positive, get back down there, get your work in.’ There really was no message of go work on this or work on that. He’s shown that he’s a major-league pitcher that he can help us.”

In addition to McHugh, the Rays are hoping over the next several weeks to get back Nick Anderson — out since the spring with an elbow injury — and Pete Fairbanks, J.P. Feyereisen and Ryan Thompson, all shelved with shoulder issues and making progress to return.

Also Saturday, Cash said there was no update on the status of outfielder Randy Arozarena, who on Friday was placed on the COVID-19-related injured list due to what the team was a “close contact.” Arozarena’s return remains on somewhat of a day-to-day basis.

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