ST. PETERSBURG — The baseball world seems to agree, he is a special pitcher. Elite is the word you commonly hear. His contract suggests it, his reputation proclaims it, his arsenal of pitches practically screams it.
Tyler Glasnow just needs to deliver on an October stage to finally cement it.
This is his time. This needs to be his moment. He is healthy, he is pitching Game 1 against the Rangers and the Rays are counting on him more than ever to carry them deep into the postseason. Shane McClanahan is on the sideline, and so are Jeffrey Springs and Drew Rasmussen. The Rays will go only as far as Glasnow and Zach Eflin can carry them.
“We’ve been in the postseason plenty. We’d like to take that next step and win the last game,” president of baseball operations Erik Neander said. “The opportunity for those signature moments and accomplishments — not just for Glas but for a lot of these guys — are right there. They’re there for the taking.
“We’re not looking to put too much on him individually, but he has the ability, the experience and enough underneath him to do it. I think we all know when he is right, he can carry us every time he takes the hill. And so can (Eflin).”
It’s not as if Glasnow, 30, hasn’t delivered in the past. It seems as if he’s been on the verge of glory forever. Since his first full season in Tampa Bay in 2019, Glasnow’s ERA of 3.03 ranks 11th among MLB pitchers with at least 60 starts. His WHIP of 1.013 is fifth. His strikeout rate of 12.5 per nine innings is second.
There’s only a small group of pitchers with those kinds of numbers. Bona fide aces such as Max Scherzer, Gerrit Cole, Jacob deGrom and Shohei Ohtani. Those guys have Cy Young awards. An MVP. Loads of All-Star appearances.
Glasnow does not.
It certainly isn’t for lack of talent. Or, at times, production. It’s more about staying healthy, and having those signature moments at the right time.
“I’m biased, but I look at it like he’s kind of been that for us. Kind of every step of the way through all these postseasons,” manager Kevin Cash said. “The body of work maybe during the regular season isn’t as consistent as some of those other guys, but Glas has shown the ability to dial it up.”
That’s true, but with some caveats. When he takes the mound on Tuesday, it will be his 81st start in a Rays uniform. And 10 of those — more than 12% — have come in the postseason, where he is 2-5 with a 5.75 ERA.
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As successful as he’s been at various moments, it feels as if Glasnow has been stuck between potential and performance for much of his career. He was 6-1 with a 1.86 ERA in 2019 when he missed four months with a forearm strain. And when he returned for the playoffs, he got rocked by the Astros because he was tipping his pitches.
He was 5-2 with a 2.66 ERA in 2021 before tearing his UCL and missing the next year and a half following Tommy John surgery. He threw five shutout innings against Cleveland in Game 2 of the wild-card series last season, but the Rays eventually lost 1-0 in 15 innings and were eliminated.
The point is, Glasnow may be the most talented player on the Rays roster. His raw skills — the 97 mph fastball, the biting slider, the mind-bending curveball — put him in the 99th percentile of pitchers. And the team-high $25 million salary he is due to make in 2024 reflects his value to the organization.
“He’s as talented as any starting pitcher, left- or right-handed, in all of baseball,” said pitching coach Kyle Snyder. “He’s got a lot of experience in this type of atmosphere. There is comfort knowing that he’s been there, done it and now he’s healthier than he’s ever been. Could he go on a roll like he did in July when he was (American League) Pitcher of the Month? Could he do that in October for us? I would almost expect it more than be surprised by it.”
October is filled with stories of World Series champions fueled by a pair of star pitchers. The Nationals won in 2019 with Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg going a combined 8-0 with a 2.17 ERA in October. Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson went 9-1 with a 1.31 ERA for the Diamondbacks in 2001. Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine went 5-1 with a 2.32 for the Braves in 1995.
Is it unfair to expect Glasnow and Eflin to replicate those type of performances? Or course it is. Is it stretching reality to compare them to a bunch of Hall of Famers in October? Absolutely.
But is it the best path for a Rays World Series? You betcha.
“It’s everyone’s dream, I guess. The reason you play baseball is to try to go as far as you can in the postseason,” Glasnow said. “I’ve been fortunate enough to be with such a good organization and we’ve had the chance every year I’ve been here, other than ‘18. The more experience you have doing something, the more comfortable you get.
“It’s obviously still full of emotions and whatnot, but it’s definitely exciting.”
John Romano can be reached at email@example.com. Follow @romano_tbtimes.
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