ST. PETERSBURG -- A recent tough stretch has gotten even tougher for the Rays.
Reigning American League Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell has been placed on the 10-day injured list and will undergo arthroscopic surgery on Monday in St. Petersburg to remove loose bodies in his left elbow, the club announced on Thursday.
Snell and the club remain optimistic that the left-hander will be able to return to the mound at some point in September.
“I felt it three or four starts ago. ... It didn’t really bother me,” Snell said. “Then I played catch two days ago and felt it move like, by my elbow, and then I threw off the mound yesterday and knew, ‘yeah, this was different.’”
It’s the second time Snell has landed on the injured list this season, and it serves as another huge blow to a Rays rotation that has been undermanned for months and that now only features Charlie Morton and Yonny Chirinos as starters. Tyler Glasnow has been sidelined since May and now the club will have to operate without Snell pitching every fifth day.
“I was just so upset,” Snell said. “I feel like this whole season has been that way. I struggled a little bit, then got it going and then broke my toe, then struggled a little bit, then got it going and then this injury happened. It’s just upsetting. Every time I found my groove and felt like I was about to get going, something got in the way. It’s just very frustrating.”
The left-hander is 6-7 with a 4.28 ERA this season, but he has been much better over his last four starts, posting a 1.64 ERA over 22 innings.
How does Snell’s injury affect the Rays’ rotation?
With Snell out, the Rays will go with Morton and Chirinos as their lone starters, with Ryan Yarbrough and Jalen Beeks possibly getting some starts along the way. The one good thing for the Rays is that, including Thursday, they have three days off over the next week and a half, which will allow them to set their rotation and keep their bullpen fresh.
The Rays could also choose to bring up Brendan McKay whenever they need a pair of starts, but his situation remains fluid since he’s already at a career-high 86 innings pitched and is currently working on six days’ rest.
Jose De Leon, Jake Faria and Austin Pruitt are also options in Triple-A Durham whenever the Rays need a player to provide length.
“With the team that we have, I know that they’re going to bounce back and they’ll be fine,” Snell said. “I’m not worried about that. They’ll do their part and they’re all really, really talented. I know that they’re going to ball out like they usually do. The team will be fine.”
How does Snell’s injury affect the front office?
With the Rays only one game back of the second Wild Card spot entering play Thursday and the Trade Deadline approaching on July 31, the front office will have to make a couple of key decisions on what to do with the pitching staff moving forward.
The club could elect to stay with its in-house options and piece things together until Snell returns. However, Snell’s injury makes the upcoming three-game set against Toronto that much more important for the Rays. If Tampa Bay can’t pull off a series win and drops in the standings, it becomes increasingly likely that the Rays only make a move if they believe the acquisition makes sense for the upcoming years, not just the 2019 season.
On the other hand, a series win in Toronto and a good showing in the first game in Boston on July 30 could push the front office to look to the trade market to acquire arms for the rotation.
According to team sources, scouts from the Tigers, Mets and a handful of other teams have been around the Rays’ organization over the last month, but that’s common during this time of year.
Now it remains to be seen how much the Rays are willing to give up in a deal for one of the top starting pitchers on the trade market, and if the Snell injury changes the way they approach trade talks over the next week. They certainly have the farm system to pull off a deal.
How does this impact Snell?
While Snell hopes to return in September, he did admit that he’s unsure how his body will react after surgery on Monday. He has consulted former Rays pitcher and current Red Sox hurler Nathan Eovaldi, who underwent the surgery each of the last two seasons, but it’s more of an unknown for Snell given this is the first time he is experiencing the injury.
“I talked to Nate Eovaldi multiple times already about it,” Snell said. “I’m looking forward [to returning in September] and I’m looking forward to that and that’s my goal, but at the same time, that’s just from what I’ve heard and I don’t know how my body is going to react or anything like that. I feel like in September, I’ll be ready to go.”
However, Snell’s return could also be impacted by how many innings he will be able to provide. Due to the lengthy absence, Snell will likely need some rehab games before returning to the big league club. Will he return at full-go? That’s another question worth keeping an eye on.