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Rays’ Shane Baz has elbow sprain, to miss extended time

The right-hander has been prescribed an injection, rest and rehab for four weeks, then will be re-evaluated.
Rays right-hander Shane Baz, sidelined by an elbow sprain, is now the 17th Tampa Bay player on the injured list, most in the majors.
Rays right-hander Shane Baz, sidelined by an elbow sprain, is now the 17th Tampa Bay player on the injured list, most in the majors. [ AARON DOSTER | AP ]
Published Jul. 14, 2022|Updated Jul. 15, 2022

ST. PETERSBURG — Just when you might think the Rays couldn’t possibly lose another key player for an extended period of time due to injury, they did.

Shane Baz, a starter they were counting heavily upon over the rest of the season, was sidelined with an elbow sprain that is likely to keep him out for at least two months, and potentially much longer if surgery is required. Baz is the 12th pitcher and 17th player overall on the injured list, matching the most in the majors as well as the high for any time in franchise history.

“Disappointed for Shane, for sure,” manager Kevin Cash said. “You don’t want to see guys get injured, and we’ve had our fair share.”

Baz, 23, pitched Sunday in Cincinnati, allowing three home runs over a seven-batter span, though Rays officials said there was no sign then of an injury.

The issue surfaced Tuesday when Baz reported discomfort in his elbow while playing catch, and it was concerning enough that the Rays sent him to see specialist Dr. Keith Meister in Texas on Thursday. Cash said the new injury is not related to the March arthroscopic surgery Baz had to remove a bone chip from his elbow, which delayed his season debut until June 11.

Baz received an injection of “orthobiologics,’' a combination of substances desinged to speed healing, with a plan of rest and rehab for four weeks, then be re-evaluated. If he feels better, the team will set a timeline for him to build back up, with the general rule of a pitcher needing a week for every week he is shut down, which would push Baz to a mid-September return.

But given that a sprain usually indicates a ligament tear, there is at least the possibility Baz could end up needing Tommy John surgery, which would keep him out most or even all of 2023.

For now, the Rays called up Luke Bard on Thursday to add depth to the bullpen. For Friday’s game, they are set to activate Luis Patino, who had been out since early April with an oblique strain and had his rehab at Triple-A Durham interrupted July 2 by a blister on his right middle finger.

Pitching coach Kyle Snyder said he has spoken to and texted with Baz repeatedly over the last few days to provide support.

Shane Baz's last outing, July 10 in Cincinnati, was less than ideal. The Reds won 10-5.
Shane Baz's last outing, July 10 in Cincinnati, was less than ideal. The Reds won 10-5. [ AARON DOSTER | AP ]
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“I’m trying to certainly just encourage him and help him just psychologically deal with kind of the initial phase of this,” Snyder said. “He’s a young player with tremendous talent that’s had his first surgery this year with the bone chip being removed and he’s feeling some sensations in the elbow again. He’s probably more in tune with his body now than he has been in the past. Just obviously, we’re all wishing the best for Shane.”

Snyder said he was confident the Rays would be able to handle the loss of Baz, noting the expected upcoming returns of Jeffrey Springs (after next week’s All-Star break) and eventually Yonny Chirinos, who is making a “very encouraging” return from August 2020 Tommy John surgery.

“The depth is there, the talent is certainly there,” he said. “As a team we’ll be fine. We can’t replace Shane Baz, but we’ve got a lot of guys that are very talented and have an opportunity to come up here and throw some zeroes on the board.”

The spate of injuries can raise questions, especially from fans, if the Rays are doing anything wrong. Cash, noting how closely they monitor workloads for starters (including ace Shane McClanahan and veteran Corey Kluber), said they routinely discuss and review training, coaching and other methods.

“We’re constantly evaluating and trying to use as much information,” he said. “Certainly feel that you can’t finger point at anybody or blame (anybody), and if they are, blame me; I’m the one that throws them out there. With our medical staff, with our sports science group, we’re trying really hard to stay ahead of things. I certainly can understand how it doesn’t feel that way in the moment from our fan base.”

Thursday, the Rays will go for a rare four-game sweep of the Red Sox with Drew Rasmussen on the mound. Kutter Crawford will start for the Red Sox.

Here is the Rays lineup:

And for the Red Sox, still without Trevor Story:

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