'It felt normal': Glasnow back with stuff intact

Righty hits 99 in return from TJ; Rays' magic number for WC berth drops to 2 despite loss

September 29th, 2022

CLEVELAND -- For 14 lonely months, waited.

On June 14, 2021, Glasnow partially tore his UCL and suffered a strain of his flexor tendon in his pitching arm. A little more than a month later, the right-hander was on an operating table in Texas undergoing Tommy John surgery that was expected to keep him out until 2023.

But then he picked up a ball, and things felt good. Then he started throwing, and things felt even better. Better than ever, in fact.

Four hundred and seventy-one days after Glasnow walked off the mound in Chicago, he got to show the rest of the baseball world how good his arm felt. He allowed one run in three innings during his 2022 season debut in Wednesday night’s 2-1, 10-inning loss to the Guardians at Progressive Field.

“It felt normal,” Glasnow said. “I think the routine’s been similar for so long that it’s kind of picked up right where I left off. … Mechanically, everything felt pretty synced up, and my quick step felt pretty good as well. Everything felt just as consistent.”

And while Glasnow’s debut came in a loss, it showcased how the 6-foot-8 starter could end up being one of the most important members of the Rays’ roster come October. Baltimore’s 3-1 loss to Boston on Wednesday night lowered Tampa Bay’s magic number to two to clinch an American League Wild Card berth, while the Blue Jays’ 8-3 loss to the Yankees meant that the Rays still sit 1 1/2 games behind Toronto for the top spot.

After opening the game with a 14-pitch first inning that began with a 98 mph first-pitch fastball to Steven Kwan, Glasnow recorded his first strikeout an inning later on an 84 mph slider that went down and in to Josh Naylor. His lone blemish came in the second inning, when he missed on a fastball that Gabriel Arias smacked a Statcast-projected 402 feet for his first career home run. In total, Glasnow allowed two hits, walked one and struck out three on exactly 50 pitches. His fastball was consistently clocked at 98-99 mph.

“After that first 98 [mph] strike, I kind of looked at [pitching coach] Kyle [Snyder], and it’s a good feeling,” manager Kevin Cash said. “ had never caught him before, and I think he was a little wowed by it.”

If Tampa Bay holds onto a playoff spot, the playoff-tested Glasnow -- who started in the Rays’ clinching game in both the 2020 AL Wild Card Series and the Division Series -- should factor into its postseason pitching plans in some capacity. If Wednesday was any indication, he should be just as dangerous.

“Everybody knows what the stuff is, but there aren’t any words for it,” fellow starter Jeffrey Springs said. “He’s one of the best when healthy, so we’re really excited to have him back. He’s a special talent for sure, and his stuff is as unique as it comes.”

Glasnow was staked to an early lead thanks to Bethancourt, who singled home Ji-Man Choi in the second inning. The Rays had a golden opportunity to score in the seventh inning when they loaded the bases with one out for Jose Siri. Before Siri could step to the plate, however, the game was sent into a 63-minute rain delay. When play resumed, the Guardians got out of the jam on a perfectly turned double play.

“That felt like our one opportunity that we had, and we’ve got to find a way to make some more opportunities,” Cash said.

The Rays’ bullpen put together a stellar performance for the second straight day, as seven pitchers combined to throw 6 1/3 innings of one-run ball a day after throwing seven innings in relief of Corey Kluber. Tampa Bay’s ‘pen has allowed one earned run and struck out 16 in 13 1/3 innings in the first two games of the series. Cleveland got the game-winning run in the 10th when pinch-hitter Amed Rosario lined a single to left field off Javy Guerra with the bases loaded.

“With Javy being just a big split guy, I wanted to get the righty up there and maybe get a ground ball we can get an out on. … They just kind of had us pinned there,” Cash said.