In a crushing blow to the Tampa Bay Rays’ 2021 postseason hopes, ESPN reporter Jeff Passan announced that Rays ace Tyler Glasnow is expected to undergo Tommy John surgery next week:
Passan admits there’s a small chance Glasnow could receive guidance that rehab could be sufficient for his UCL injury, a path that could still see Glasnow pitching later this season, however, the prevailing opinion is that Glasnow will need Tommy John to repair his elbow, a decision that will cause Glasnow to miss not only all the rest of 2021 but likely a good chunk of (if not the entirety) the 2022 season.
Cy Young Derailed… Again
It marks the second time that Glasnow has been injured during a career season. In 2019, Glasnow was unstoppable to the tune of a 1.78 but only pitched 60.2 innings. After a fine-but-underwhelming 2020, Glasnow established himself as the true ace of Tampa Bay this season, compiling a 2.66 ERA while striking out 123 over 88.0 innings. He started 14 games and was in the Cy Young conversation before his elbow injury.
Glasnow has been vocally critical of the recent substance crackdown, blaming his injury on the cold-turkey approach to substances that we saw league-wide. The ace had success in his first start post-crackdown, striking out 11 against the Nationals, but the changes in grip were already leading to problems. In his second start, Glasnow was pulled after the fourth inning when he felt a “tug” in his elbow. It led to the UCL diagnosis that threatened Tommy John—while Glasnow has attempted to rest and recover en route to a rehab that could see him back in Tampa before the end of the season, it’s looking like Tommy John is the inevitable conclusion, one that’s brutal for the Rays.
A Dashing Blow
It’s tough news not only for Glasnow but for a Rays team that was suspiciously silent in the starting pitcher market ahead of yesterday’s trade deadline. With the already-slim chance of Glasnow returning now all but extinguished, the Rays are left with an incomplete and inconsistent rotation. Rookie Shane McClanahan has emerged as the “ace” of the rotation but has already thrown more innings in 2021 than any season prior. The Rays will be extremely cautious with monitoring the young rookie, who has racked up 84 strikeouts over 71 innings, pitching to a 3.93 ERA in 15 starts.
Beyond him, a trio of respectable but underwhelming starters in Ryan Yarbrough, Michael Wacha, and Josh Fleming provide some stability but none have the ceiling of becoming true ace-material. Tampa Bay will roll the dice on Luis Patiño, recently called back up to the majors, to complement McClanahan. The rookie has gone at least five innings in seven of his last eight starts and is clearly being stretched out for a starter’s workload. Results have been mixed, but the upside of Patiño is sky-high.
Chris Archer is in the final stages of rehabbing back from an injury that limited him to just 4.1 innings earlier in the season, however, the former Ray-turned-Pirate-turned-Ray-again is a massive question mark after missing 2020 and struggling in 2019 with Pittsburgh. Whether he can return to his former Tampa Bay glory is unclear.
Beyond him, there are a few potential prospects that might contribute in 2021, but all of them have potential concerns. Brendan McKay is still rehabbing from shoulder surgery and may not be stretched out enough in time to truly help as a starter. Brent Honeywell has spent most of the season in Triple-A Durham and whether he can perform at a major-league level has not yet been established. Shane Baz, the Rays’ #5 prospect, is just 22 and recently promoted to Triple-A. It’s unlikely he’ll taste the majors this year and if so would be severely limited.
It’s disappointing for baseball fans regardless of loyalty, as Glasnow was establishing himself as a true ace of the league. The Rays will feel the effects not just in 2021 but in 2022 as well, as they’ll be shorthanded for some or all of the season. It’ll force them to buckle down and do what admittedly they do best: rely on pulling the best out of a hodgepodge pitching staff. If anyone can make it work, it’s Tampa Bay.
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