CINCINNATI — Rays starter Jeffrey Springs is expected to have Tommy John elbow surgery that will sideline him into the 2024 season.
The Rays announced Tuesday afternoon that Springs, 31, has been diagnosed with a left elbow flexor strain and placed on the 15-day injured list. That move was procedural so the Rays could activate Taj Bradley to start Tuesday against the Reds.
Recovery from Tommy John surgery typically takes 12 to 15 months, so the likely best case is that Springs could rejoin the Rays rotation in May or June 2024.
Manager Kevin Cash said Springs was still sorting through the scenarios.
“Obviously, he’s going on the IL with an elbow issue,” Cash said before Tuesday’s game. “I think in fairness to Jeff, he’s still processing the information that he’s gotten. He met with (Dr. Keith Meister on Tuesday). So I think we’re a day or two from him coming up with a decision on what is ideal for him, and then a timetable from there.”
The Rays hadn’t said much since Springs left last Thursday’s game with what initially was said to be a nerve issue — ulnar neuritis — but upon further evaluation turned out to be more serious.
Springs underwent an MRI and was examined by team orthopedic doctor Dr. Koco Eaton on Friday. There was no announcement of that diagnosis, as Springs and the Rays wanted to solicit opinions from several other doctors. Those were completed on Tuesday when Springs went to Texas to see Meister, who performed Tommy John surgery in August 2021 on Rays teammate Tyler Glasnow, among many others.
Springs’ absence will be challenging, starter Drew Rasmussen said.
“Injury sucks, regardless of what it is,” Rasmussen said after the initial diagnosis was announced. “Springs is such a good human being and he’s a big part of this team. To lose a guy like that, it’s tough. You just look at what we’ve been through as a starting staff and the arms we’ve lost. It is definitely tough.
“But this organization has done such a terrific job of developing talent and stockpiling talent. We have the ability to weather the storm a little bit. Jeffrey is going to be missed and we definitely wish he was here. We’d prefer it that way. It’s one of those things where we’ve got to win games now until we can get him back.”
Springs had a breakout 2022 season after transitioning in May from the bullpen to the rotation, posting an 8-5, 2.65 record in 24 starts, while working a career-high 135 1/3 innings overall. The Rays rewarded him in January with a four-year contract for a guaranteed $31 million.
Bradley was optioned to Triple-A after his April 12 debut and could only be recalled in fewer than 15 days if replacing an injured player.
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Wander Franco’s Tuesday started with a morning visit to a Cincinnati dentist for a root canal on a tooth that had become extremely painful the previous day. Then he hit a fly ball caught at the wall in the first inning, and was hit by a pitch in the fourth and caught stealing second, finishing 1-for-3.
Cash said before the game that Franco seemed to be in a good spot. “But those teeth are sensitive and he’s probably not in the most comfort,” Cash said. “He did say he’s more comfortable now than he was (Monday) night. So that’s a good thing.”
Hey, I know you …
The Reds clubhouse at Great American Ball Park had a half-dozen familiar faces, with five former Rays big-leaguers and a one-time prospect.
The alumni covered several eras, from Wil Myers, who played outfield for the Rays from 2013-14, to Kevin Herget, who pitched for them last season. (Herget was optioned to Triple-A Louisville before Tuesday’s game.)
The others, and their time with Rays: Catcher Curt Casali (2014-17), catcher Luke Maile (2015-16) and reliever Ian Gibaut (2019). Outfielder Jake Fraley was a 2016 second-round pick who reached advanced Class A before being traded to Seattle in November 2018 with Mallex Smith for Mike Zunino, Guillermo Heredia and Michael Plassmeyer.
Myers, 32, won the 2013 American League Rookie of the Year award with the Rays. He was traded to San Diego after the 2014 season as part of the 10-player, three-team deal in which the other principals were Steven Souza Jr., whom the Rays got, and 2014 draftee Trea Turner, whom they could have kept but decided to pass on to Washington.
Myers, who signed with the Reds after eight years in San Diego, said he had good memories of his time with the Rays.
“It feels like a long time, a decade ago now, but I enjoyed my time with Tampa Bay. It was a lot of fun,” he said. “Obviously the Rays are still a winning organization over there, they’re still figuring it out. So it’s pretty cool to watch from afar.”
Switch-hitter Taylor Walls became the fourth Ray to homer from both sides of the plate in a game, joining Geoff Blum (May 4, 2004), Willy Aybar (Aug. 3, 2009) and Ben Zobrist (April 13, 2014, also in Cincinnati). ... The Rays have homered in each of their first 18 games, the second-longest, season-starting streak behind the Mariners’ 20 games in 2019. ... The Rays’ 41 homers are the second most through 18 games in major-league history; the 2000 Cardinals hit 42. Twelve Rays have hit at least two. ... Having allowed a career-high four walks in his last start, Rasmussen said he worked extensively on fastball command for Wednesday’s matinee start.
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