Baz nears return with 10-K performance

June 6th, 2022

wasn't just delivering a message to his opponent on Sunday. With each sizzling fastball, biting slider and strikeout, baseball's No. 12 overall prospect was telling his own organization two simple words: "I'm ready."

Making the fourth start of his rehab assignment, Baz equaled a career high with 10 strikeouts and surrendered a run on four hits over 4 1/3 innings in Triple-A Durham's 4-1 win over visiting Nashville. The 22-year-old was slated to go five innings but was lifted after retiring the first batter of the fifth on his 79th pitch.

Recovering from a March 22 procedure which removed loose bodies in his pitching elbow, Baz is eligible to be activated off the 60-day injured list on Monday. While it's not known if Tampa Bay will reinstate the right-hander in time for his next outing, his performances during his rehab assignment speak for themselves.

Baz worked around a leadoff single and a one-out double in the opening frame, striking out a pair before whiffing the side in the second inning. The Houston, Texas, native was nicked for the only time in the third on a pair of singles and a wild pitch, but he added two more strikeouts and three more in the fourth after issuing his only walk. It marked the fourth 10-strikeout game of Baz's career and his first since Sept. 11 against Norfolk. His previous three all came in 2021.

The 79 pitches were the most Baz has tossed in his previous three rehab starts, which totaled 8 2/3 innings. Including his performance on Sunday, the 12th overall pick in the 2017 Draft has a 20-to-4 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 13 innings while limiting opponents to two runs (1.38 ERA) and a .167 average.

Obtained in a deadline deal with the Pirates in 2018, Baz made his Major League debut last season after posting a 2.06 ERA in 17 starts with Double-A Montgomery and Durham. In three starts with Tampa Bay, the 6-foot-2, 190-pounder struck out 18 and compiled a 2.03 ERA while holding opposing batters to a .130 average in 13 1/3 innings.