Rays, Josh Fleming await word on what caused ‘a lot’ of elbow discomfort

Notebook | The lefty had an MRI and CT scan Saturday with reports expected on the cause and severity of injury.
Rays relief pitcher Josh Fleming pitches in the second inning against the Dodgers at Tropicana Field last Sunday.
Rays relief pitcher Josh Fleming pitches in the second inning against the Dodgers at Tropicana Field last Sunday. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]
Published June 3|Updated June 4

BOSTON — The Rays are waiting for further evaluation from doctors on the cause and extent of the left elbow injury that will sideline starter/bulk inning pitcher Josh Fleming for at least several weeks.

Fleming had an MRI and CT scan Saturday morning after “a lot of discomfort” in playing catch on Friday.

Fleming pitched last Sunday and threw a bullpen session Wednesday with no problem, but said he woke up Friday feeling some stiffness. He thought playing catch would help, but “I was throwing, and just nothing was getting loose and it just felt not good.”

Fleming said the discomfort is on the outside of the elbow and near his triceps.

“Anytime you’re dealing with that area, obviously the mind always goes to worst-case scenario,” he said. “I definitely don’t think that’s the case, but you never know. The results will tell us.”

Manager Kevin Cash said the Rays are waiting to hear more before placing Fleming on the injured list.

“We’ve got the images; now we’ll let some doctors weigh in on it,” Cash said. “I feel like he’s going to miss some time. But before we officially announce anything, we want to make sure that all the opinions have been heard, and Josh can process what needs to happen going forward.”

Fleming was slated to work bulk innings in one of the games during Saturday’s day/night doubleheader against the Red Sox.

Instead, the Rays used Trevor Kelley as the opener and four relievers in the day game, and Tyler Glasnow, who was slated to start Friday’s rained out game, in the nightcap.

There will be more juggling going forward.

Yonny Chirinos pitches against the Yankees on May 5 at Tropicana Field.
Yonny Chirinos pitches against the Yankees on May 5 at Tropicana Field. [ JEFFEREE WOO | Times ]

Rookie Taj Bradley is slated to pitch Sunday, though rain is again in the forecast. If that game is played, the Rays are planning to move up lefty ace Shane McClanahan to start Monday, when they will make up Friday’s rainout, and Zach Eflin for Tuesday’s home series opener against the Twins.

What they do after that could be interesting. Cooper Criswell, who was sent down May 27 (and was the 27th man Saturday), could be called up short of the 15-day limit to replace an injured Fleming and handle bulk innings Wednesday.

If the Rays want to give the four starters an extra day of rest, they could then summon Yonny Chirinos to pitch Thursday with a chance to stay around. Chirinos spent a month with the Rays previously, but was sent down and replaced in the rotation by Bradley. Chirinos worked three innings Saturday for Durham, allowing one hit and striking out five.

When Chirinos was sent down May 17 to work on consistency, among other things, he was two days short of reaching five years of service time in the majors. That is relevant because once a player gets to five years, they have to consent to being optioned to the minors and can instead opt to get paid the rest of their contract ($1.275 million salary for Chirinos) and become a free agent. So if the Rays do recall Chirinos, he is likely to stay with them.

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Relievers Robert Stephenson, acquired Friday from Pittsburgh, and Shawn Armstrong, on the 60-day injured list since reporting to spring training with neck tightness, were activated between games Saturday. Stephenson worked in the sixth inning. Kelley was optioned to Triple A, and rookie Joe LaSorsa was designated for assignment to clear a 40-man roster spot. … The Rays extended their team-record streak of stolen bases to 29, with four for the day. The record is 39 straight by the 2013 Red Sox. ... Saturday was the Red Sox’s first scheduled doubleheader since Aug. 30, 1978. ... Nineteen of the Rays’ last 28 games have been decided by one or two runs. ... Reliever Zack Littell, sidelined since May 24 with right shoulder fatigue, is likely to start a rehab assignment with Triple-A Durham this week. ... Bradley, the 22-year-old rookie, enjoyed checking out Fenway Park, including doing “a few jumps off the (outfield) wall” to get a sense of how solid it was. “I didn’t know it was all metal,” he said.

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