Reliever Pete Fairbanks could miss several months of the regular season based on initial evaluation of the lat muscle issue that forced him from Sunday’s exhibition.
Fairbanks underwent an MRI exam Monday, and with a recommendation that he not throw for six weeks, the team is now seeking additional opinions.
Typically, when a pitcher is shut down for a finite length of time from throwing, he will need a similar amount of time to get built back up to return to game action. Midseason could be a reasonable target date for Fairbanks.
The right-hander left Sunday’s game in Port Charlotte after throwing just five pitches and was diagnosed then with tightness in the lat muscle, which is in the mid-back area. Manager Kevin Cash said then that Fairbanks was “going to miss some time. The initial recommendation for six weeks without throwing would seem to indicate a severe strain or a tear.
Fairbanks, 28, can be one of the Rays’ most effective relievers when healthy, but injuries have been an issue. He missed 50 games last season over two stints due to shoulder problems. In 74 games over the last two seasons, he is 9-9, 3.25 with five saves, allowing a .236 average and .652 OPS while striking out 31.1 percent of hitters faced.
The Rays seem to have ample bullpen depth, and with rosters expanding from 26 to 28 for the first month, they could carry 15 or even 16 pitchers. Fairbanks’ absence could open a spot for Jason Adam, Chris Mazza or Ryan Thompson, or another lefty, to make the roster.
Lefty Shane McClanahan, who seems to be lined up for the April 8 opening day start, threw 47 pitches over 3 2/3 innings in a simulated game in Port Charlotte on Monday, when most of the team was off. Also throwing were Mazza (50 pitches over four innings), Thompson (21 over one) and prospect Tommy Romero (36 over 2 1/3 innings). … Romero was later optioned to the minors, leaving the Rays with 41 active players in camp.
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