Kittredge has UCL sprain; Slegers added
Rays reliever Andrew Kittredge will not pitch again in 2020 after an MRI exam Wednesday revealed a right UCL sprain.
The right-hander experienced elbow soreness Tuesday at Boston and left in the first inning after facing just two batters as the Rays' opener. The team placed Kittredge on the 45-day injured list, ending his season.
“It stinks,” said Rays manager Kevin Cash. “We knew we were going to have our challenges this year, and we’re trying to avoid injuries like that. Kitt provides so much for us. His consistency -- I think over time he’s become a big key and a high-leverage guy for us. We’re going to miss him the rest of the year. It’s a big loss.”
The Rays selected right-hander Aaron Slegers to the Major League roster.
Kittredge on Tuesday became just the seventh pitcher since saves became an official stat in 1969 to record a save and then start the team’s next game with no off-day in between. He immediately shook his right arm in discomfort after his last pitch to Red Sox right fielder Alex Verdugo.
A UCL sprain often results in Tommy John surgery, but Cash said the Kittredge has not yet decided on the next step. If Kittredge elects for surgery, it’s likely he’ll be sidelined for most, if not all, of the 2021 season.
“We have to do right by him and let him get the opinions that he wants to seek,” Cash said. “Kitt, along with [athletic trainer] Joe Benge, along with his family, will put their heads together on what course of action they want to do.”
The injury bug has hit the Rays hard lately, as Charlie Morton, Yonny Chirinos and Oliver Drake are all on the 10-day injured list. Brendan McKay, the team's No. 2 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, was shut down on Tuesday with left shoulder inflammation. Colin Poche, one of the top left-handers in the bullpen, was lost for the season during Summer Camp after undergoing Tommy John surgery.
The Rays are in need of pitchers who can provide depth, and that’s exactly what Slegers brings to the table. The right-hander has been in the alternate training site in Port Charlotte, Fla. and has been utilized as a starter or as the bulk pitcher behind an opener.
Cash said Slegers is available to pitch up to four or five innings, whenever the club needs it.
“I was throwing four to five innings every four or five days,” Slegers said. “I’ve been with the club since we got on the plane in Tampa as a taxi squad member, so I’ve been preparing this whole time mentally that I can be added any day because that’s what I’m here to do.”
Slegers, a fifth-round Draft pick of the Twins in 2013, pitched in nine big league games from ’17-19, posting a 5.63 ERA. Slegers, who is 6-foot-10, had one appearance with Tampa Bay last season, and became the tallest player in franchise history, passing Jeff Niemann and Mark Hendrickson, who stand at 6-9.
Catcher Kevan Smith, who was designated for assignment on Sunday, cleared waivers and accepted his outright assignment to the alternate training site.
Smith was on the Rays’ Opening Day roster but didn’t get much playing time, appearing in just four games. Keeping Smith, however, is big for the Rays, who are thin at the position behind Michael Perez and Mike Zunino.
“Kevan Smith is a Major League catcher,” Cash said. “We’re fortunate to have him. He’ll go through the intake protocols and get back to Port Charlotte over the weekend. It’s nice to have that depth. It’s nice to have that veteran presence to call on when needed.”