Rays catcher Nick Ciuffo underwent surgery on his ailing thumb today and is expected to be sidelined for the next eight to 10 weeks, per Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times (Twitter links). The Rays will also prolong fellow catcher Michael Perez’s minor league rehab stint a bit, as he’s still feeling some of the effects of the oblique injury that landed him on the IL in the first place.
The pair of updates once again raises questions about the organization’s depth behind the plate. Mike Zunino just returned from the injured list and is handling the bulk of catching duties in a timeshare with Travis d’Arnaud, but options beyond that pair are thin. Perez will give them one alternative, but Ciuffo is now on the shelf alongside Anthony Bemboom, while trade acquisition Erik Kratz was designated for assignment last week.
Beyond the sheer scarcity of catching options, the Rays have received zero production from d’Arnaud since acquiring the longtime Mets backstop in a deal with the Dodgers (who’d picked him up after he was released by New York). In 75 plate appearances with Tampa Bay, d’Arnaud has hit only .149/.227/.179. Since d’Arnaud is out of minor league options, the Rays will have to either option Perez to Triple-A when his rehab assignment is complete or designate d’Arnaud for assignment as they did with Kratz. That, in turn, would only further thin out the catching mix.
Suffice it to say, the Rays seem quite likely to be on the lookout for some catching depth in the weeks to come — even if it’s just some additions at the minor league level. The Rays have 26-year-old Mac James in Triple-A Durham, but he’s not hitting well either, and options beyond him appear limited. One option for Tampa Bay would be to take a look at veteran catcher Chris Stewart, who recently opted out of a minor league contract with the Padres.