ST. PETERSBURG -- Nathan Eovaldi felt fortunate that the news wasn't worse.After a superlative spring, the Rays' right-hander had to go on the disabled list Thursday due to "loose bodies" in his right elbow, the same elbow that has twice been repaired by Tommy John surgery. Team orthopedic surgeon Koco
ST. PETERSBURG -- Nathan Eovaldi felt fortunate that the news wasn't worse.
After a superlative spring, the Rays' right-hander had to go on the disabled list Thursday due to "loose bodies" in his right elbow, the same elbow that has twice been repaired by Tommy John surgery. Team orthopedic surgeon Koco Eaton will perform a procedure on Friday morning to remove the loose bodies.
"There's a lot of good things to take from this," Eovaldi said. "Structurally, everything else, like the UCL, is fine. It's cartilage, and it's not bone. It's basically a 6 to 8 millimeter piece of cartilage broke off. And they think it kind of got caught between the elbow, and the bone grinded it down. So I have three pieces of loose cartilage floating around in there. All three are about 2 millimeters."
Eovaldi threw six innings Monday against the Tigers in his final spring start and looked overpowering, hitting 98 mph in the sixth inning.
"I didn't play any catch, and felt great after the start, there was nothing," said Eovaldi, who explained that when he awoke Tuesday night he could not straighten his arm. That led to X-rays and an MRI on Wednesday. "It's definitely disappointing. ... It really shouldn't be that long of a process, because structurally, everything else is sound. There's no other issues, it's just removing those pieces that are floating around in there."
Eovaldi is expected to miss six to eight weeks.
"Three to four weeks, no [throwing]," Eovaldi said. "After that it's just building back up to starting again. It's one of those things you can kind of push because everything else is fine. It's just waiting for the incision to heal and the muscles around it not being sore from them poking around in there."
Rays manager Kevin Cash called the news "a blow."
"There's no doubt," Cash said. "It stinks for Nate. We're all sensitive to Nate, just for the effort he put forward coming back from last year to this spring. It's unfortunate. I've learned over the last three or four years we're going to adjust on the fly. And we're going to adjust on the fly going forward now. I would imagine the bullpen, there's going to be a little more on their shoulders. But we're going to try and do right by them and not overtax anybody."
For now, the Rays do not plan to add a starter, so they'll have three starters and nine relievers with a lot of off-days on the schedule to help with the situation.
"[That] is the hope," Cash said of sticking with three starters and nine relievers. "We're always going to have to adjust. If you have an extra-inning game, or a starter comes out early, standard bullpen, the bullpen day or whatever, you have to make adjustments. Our hope is to do that. I'm as optimistic that it can work, but I'm hesitant to say that it will work."
Throughout Spring Training, the Rays speculated who might become their much-needed right-handed-hitting extra outfielder. Rob Refsnyder ended up being the guy as he came to the team on Tuesday via trade from the Indians.
"I'm super excited to be here," Refsnyder said. "I'm a little bit familiar with the area, so that helps my family out a little."
Refsnyder allowed that it was nice to be going to a team that really seemed to want him.
"The Rays were the first professional team that called me when I was in high school," Refsnyder said. "They called me when I was in college. Right before the Draft. I think that means a lot they had some interest from the start. ... It feels good to be here, and I'm excited to get started."
Quote of the day
"If the bullpen performs well -- as well as we think they'll perform -- we'll get well into the 80s in wins this year." -- Rays principal owner Stu Sternberg, when asked for a win prediction for this year's team
Comfortable with role
Andrew Kittredge was told on Sunday that he had made the team as a member of the newly configured bullpen. He'll be used in a variety of roles, including long relief, or to contribute innings on the days when the team uses a "bullpen day" instead of a traditional starting pitcher.
Kittredge summarized what his understanding was about the role he would fill.
"Just be available to throw longer outings if they need me to," Kittredge said. "I think it's just be flexible with short outings, long outings. Kind of do both. ... It's something I'm comfortable with. And I think just based on the conversations I've had with the staff, that's how they plan on using me."
Joey Wendle came to the Rays in a Dec. 11 trade with the Athletics, and he'll begin the season as the left-handed-hitting component of the second-base platoon with Daniel Robertson.
Wendle has 36 Major League games under his belt from the 2016 and '17 seasons with Oakland when he hit .266 with two home runs and 16 RBIs. His Minor League totals suggest he can do more offensively.
Wendle was asked about the biggest difference in competition between the Major and Minor Leagues.
"I think there's a handful of factors at play," Wendle said. "Your first week or so of being in the Majors, you're dealing with being in the Major Leagues, in terms of the spotlight being a little different. In terms of all the names you're playing against.
"Second thing. Every pitcher, every single time, is going to bring everything he has. You have to be ready to compete every single day, because the other team is definitely going to do that. So, maybe in Triple-A, sometimes you get away with not having your best day. You can scratch out a hit or two, but you have to bring everything, every single day in the Major Leagues."
Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2004.