Shane Baz undergoes arthroscopic surgery on right elbow

Top prospect sidelined for 2-3 weeks

March 21st, 2022

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Rays top prospect Shane Baz underwent arthroscopic surgery to remove loose bodies from his right elbow on Monday, the club announced, and will be shut down from throwing for two to three weeks.

Baz came out of his Spring Training bullpen session on Tuesday feeling “outstanding,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said, but the right-hander’s arm “kind of locked up on him” while he was stretching at his house. An MRI scan confirmed a loose body “as clear as day” in Baz’s elbow, Cash said, and Dr. Keith Meister performed the procedure in Dallas.

While elbow surgery never comes at a good time for any pitcher, the Rays are taking an optimistic outlook on the situation. For one, there’s nothing structurally wrong with Baz’s elbow. He’ll only be shut down from throwing for a few weeks, so even if he has to restart his throwing progression in mid-April, he could be fully ready for game action by mid- to late May.

“They're very, very happy with the way everything else looked. We’re fortunate,” Cash said. “I know he's frustrated. I know he's disappointed. Just because [of] what he accomplished last year and how he helped us at the end of the season, he was looking forward to the beginning [of this season], but he's going to be just fine.”

Baz, the Rays’ No. 1 prospect and the No. 12 overall prospect according to MLB Pipeline, is expected to play a prominent role in Tampa Bay’s rotation this year. The 22-year-old rookie showed last September that he has front-end-of-the-rotation potential, but whether he broke camp in their rotation or at Triple-A Durham, the Rays would have been careful monitoring his workload at the start of the season anyway.

In a way, this could even work out well for Baz and Tampa Bay. If he’s not throwing innings in April or May, he should be available to pitch more in September -- and, ideally, October. Still, Cash understood any frustration Baz might feel.

“He's worked really hard to get himself in a spot where he was ready to go,” Cash said. “And now, he's hit a little bit of a bump. And hopefully that's all it is, just a bump.”

Called up during the stretch run last season, Baz allowed only three runs while striking out 18 batters and walking only three in 13 1/3 innings over three starts against the Blue Jays, Marlins and Yankees. He struggled in his American League Division Series Game 2 start against the Red Sox, giving up three runs on six hits in 2 1/3 innings, an outing that last week Baz said was “running through [his] mind for a little bit” during the offseason.

The Rays have plenty of Opening Day rotation options in camp, headlined by ALDS Game 1 starter Shane McClanahan and veteran Corey Kluber. Tampa Bay is also excited about hard-throwing right-handers Luis Patiño and Drew Rasmussen, although the club will likely ease Rasmussen into a full starter’s workload as it did last summer. Left-hander Ryan Yarbrough is also back, with his arsenal looking more like it did when he was at his weak-contact-inducing best a few years ago.

The Rays have been careful with all their young starters since they resumed communication after the lockout lifted, though. They are being mindful of their young pitchers’ relatively limited workloads in prior seasons as well as the potential injury risk associated with preparing too quickly during this abbreviated Spring Training.

For that reason, their 5-1 loss to the Pirates on Monday at Charlotte Sports Park was the first time the Rays used any pitchers on the 40-man roster during this Spring Training: left-hander Jalen Beeks, who worked a scoreless inning in his encouraging return from Tommy John surgery, and right-handed relief prospect Calvin Faucher, who was charged with three runs on three hits while recording one out.

“I don't care if we're the 30th team in terms of how aggressive we are with these guys,” pitching coach Kyle Snyder said Sunday. “It's too important.”

Around the horn

• Outfielder Luke Raley reported to Rays camp on Monday morning and went right to work, standing in the box as relievers Andrew Kittredge, Colin Poche, Jeffrey Springs and Pete Fairbanks threw live batting practice on Field 5 at Charlotte Sports Park.

Raley, acquired from the Dodgers on Friday for Minor League reliever Tanner Dodson, said he was excited for a new opportunity with the Rays. He will be comfortable handling first base (where the Rays intend to give him more work), has learned from his struggles at the plate in the Majors last season and welcomed the message Tampa Bay sent as soon as he joined the team: “We got you because we like the way you play the game.”

And how would he describe the way he plays the game?

“One hundred percent all the time. There’s no ‘off’ switch,” Raley said. “Run down the line hard all the time. Backing up bases, doing the little things. So that’s how I started playing the game. That’s how I want to continue playing.”

• Corner infielder Ryon Healy, who has agreed to a Minor League deal with the Rays that includes an invitation to Major League Spring Training, had a locker and No. 45 jersey set up in the clubhouse at Charlotte Sports Park on Monday. He is expected to report to camp later this week.

• First baseman Yoshi Tsutsugo, who spent the 2020 season and part of last year with the Rays, returned to Charlotte Sports Park with the Pirates on Monday afternoon. Tsutsugo is living in Bradenton this spring with Seiya Sano, a Major League assistant on the Rays’ staff, and sent Cash a gift Monday morning: a bottle of Japanese whiskey.

“I am excited to see him,” Cash said before the game. “Happy for Yoshi.”