Five days into the season, the Rays’ pitching depth is already being tested.
Tampa Bay placed reliever Chaz Roe on the 10-day injured list with a right shoulder strain and called up right-hander Chris Mazza before Monday night’s 11-2 loss to the Red Sox at Fenway Park. Roe will be shut down from throwing for six weeks and could miss 12 weeks, according to the team, a tough break for a Rays bullpen already without high-leverage reliever Nick Anderson (right elbow tear) and lefty Ryan Sherriff (restricted list).
Roe faced four batters in the seventh inning of Tampa Bay’s 6-4 win over Miami on Friday night, striking out the first two with his signature sweeping slider before giving up a triple and a walk. Manager Kevin Cash said Roe didn’t feel right when he woke up Saturday morning, then had continued pain in his shoulder on Sunday’s off-day.
The 34-year-old right-hander was seen by a doctor on Monday, who recommended that Roe be shut down. Roe was limited to 10 appearances for the Rays last season due to an elbow injury, then re-signed on a one-year, $1.5 million deal in late February.
The Rays were battered by injuries on their way to the World Series last year, especially on the pitching side, and this season is not off to an encouraging start on that front. The club already has five arms on the 60-day injured list: Jalen Beeks, Colin Poche, Yonny Chirinos, Oliver Drake and Anderson, whose elbow injury late in Spring Training created a big void in Tampa Bay’s bullpen. Given how long he’ll be shut down, Roe could join that group on the 60-day IL the next time the Rays need to clear a 40-man roster spot to call up a non-roster player.
Sherriff informed the team on Saturday that he needed to take some time away from the game, leaving the Rays without one reliever from their Opening Day roster after just two games. Roe’s injury leaves them down two pitchers after three games.
“It is unfortunate. It's two guys that we expected and anticipated right out of the gate that were going to help us a lot. And for different reasons, they're not here,” Cash said. “What we always pride ourselves on is creating as much quality depth as possible. It's going to be tested here very quickly.”
Coincidentally, the Rays acquired Mazza -- who will wear No. 15 -- from the Red Sox along with lefty reliever Jeffrey Springs just before Spring Training began. Last season, Mazza recorded a 4.80 ERA in 30 innings over nine appearances for Boston. Both pitched in the series-opening loss at Fenway Park, with Mazza allowing six runs on seven hits in 2 2/3 innings and Springs recording the final out of the eighth.
“Having an opportunity to be here and get to play against a team that I played for last year is always exciting,” Mazza said before the game. “Whatever they need me to do, I'm ready to take the ball and go out there and do what they trust me to do.”
As disappointed as he was to not make the Opening Day roster, Mazza said he’s coming off “probably the best Spring Training I’ve had in my career” in terms of how he felt and the results. While that didn’t carry over into Mazza's Rays debut on Monday, Cash praised the 31-year-old right-hander for picking up innings that allowed the rest of Tampa Bay’s bullpen to get a night off.
“He’s had some time off, hasn't pitched a ton, but he picked us up in a pretty big way not having to blow through the bullpen,” Cash said. “He kind of hit the reset button, and then he gave up the runs right there at the end. But other than that, [he] helped us out not having to go through our entire pen."
Around the horn
• After pitching through back stiffness in his outstanding Opening Day outing against the Marlins, Tyler Glasnow said Monday he felt good and “ready to go” for his second start of the season Tuesday night against the Red Sox.
• The Rays have already had to dip into two-fifths of their taxi squad for the trip to Miami and Boston, activating catcher Joseph Odom on Saturday and Mazza on Monday. That left three players available if needed for the rest of the series in Boston: right-hander David Hess and infielders Kevin Padlo and Taylor Walls. Cash said he was unsure if the Rays could add more players to the taxi squad given the COVID-19 intake screening necessary if they were to join the team by taking a commercial flight to Boston.
• The Rays announced on Monday that their home opener against the Yankees on Friday is sold out, marking the 15th straight season the club has sold out its home opener (with 2020 obviously excluded). Tickets are still available in socially distant seating pods for the remaining two games against the Yankees and the subsequent four-game series against the Rangers.