Rays starter Chris Archer is beginning a minor league rehab assignment with the club’s Florida Complex League affiliate today, reports Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times (Twitter link). Reliever Oliver Drake is scheduled to begin his own rehab stint with Triple-A Durham tomorrow, per Topkin.
Archer’s coming off a lost 2020 season, in which he didn’t pitch after undergoing surgery to correct thoracic outlet syndrome. The Rays bought low on the 32-year-old over the winter, reuniting with the two-time All-Star on a one-year, $6.5MM deal. Unfortunately, forearm tightness knocked him out of his second start of the season and he’s spent the past three months on the injured list.
Now, though, Archer’s on the road to recovery. Players have up to thirty days on a rehab assignment, so the right-hander will be back with the big league club by mid-August at the latest (barring future setbacks). Archer’s return will add some depth to a rotation that has since lost ace Tyler Glasnow to a partially torn UCL that’ll keep him out for most or all of the remainder of the season.
The Rays could still look to add some depth to the pitching staff before the July 30 trade deadline. It’s not a glaring weakness, since the Rays have gotten generally good work from Rich Hill, Ryan Yarbrough, Shane McClanahan and Josh Fleming. There’s room to upgrade over Michael Wacha, though, and the Rays are among the league’s most flexible teams in terms of pitcher usage. It’s easy to envision the front office acquiring another starter and bumping Fleming or Wacha into a multi-inning relief role. At 53-37, Tampa Bay trails the Red Sox by a game and a half in the American League East. With arguably the league’s deepest farm system, there should be no shortage of opportunities for the Rays front office to bolster the big league roster for the stretch run.
Drake, meanwhile, hasn’t pitched all year after suffering a forearm injury during last year’s postseason. The Rays re-signed the 35-year-old over the winter with the understanding he’d miss the first few months of the campaign. Drake is part of a group of Rays relievers — Nick Anderson, Chaz Roe, Colin Poche and Cody Reed among the others — who have dealt with long-term injury issues this season.
Both Archer and Drake are on the 60-day injured list, meaning they’re not currently occupying spots on the 40-man roster. Upon their returns, Tampa Bay will need to create 40-man vacancies, which could inspire them to trade a player or two from the back of the roster before the deadline.