MARCH 30: Fairbanks has a partially torn lat, Topkin reports (on Twitter). He’ll be shut down from throwing for at least six weeks as initially expected, at which point he’ll be reevaluated. Topkin suggests it’d take another six weeks for him to ramp back up into game shape once he begins a throwing program. It seems a late June or early July return to the majors is the best case scenario.
MARCH 28: Rays reliever Pete Fairbanks underwent an MRI this afternoon after leaving yesterday’s Grapefruit League action due to lat tightness. The initial recommendation is that Fairbanks be shut down from throwing for six weeks, reports Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, and the club is now seeking second opinions.
If Fairbanks indeed needs to shut things down entirely for six weeks, he’d likely miss most or all of the first half of the season. That’d set around a mid-May timetable for the right-hander to pick up a ball, and he’d certainly need a good bit of time to gradually ramp back up into game shape. An absence of that length would require a minor league rehab assignment as well, perhaps keeping him out of MLB action until July.
Regardless of whether further evaluation confirms that timetable, it’s clear Fairbanks won’t be an option for manager Kevin Cash early in the season. That’s a tough blow for the Rays, as the 28-year-old has emerged as a key high-leverage arm. Over the past two seasons, Fairbanks has pitched to a 3.25 ERA/2.83 FIP in 69 1/3 innings. The University of Missouri product has averaged just under 98 MPH on his high-spin fastball, and it’s little surprise he’s missed bats in droves with that offering. Since the start of 2020, he has fanned an excellent 31% of opposing hitters.
Fairbanks becomes another notable loss for a Tampa Bay pitching staff that’ll be without a few important arms. Tyler Glasnow, Nick Anderson and Yonny Chirinos are each going to miss significant chunks of the season recovering from injuries that date back to last year. Top prospect Shane Baz was shut down for a bit last week after undergoing arthroscopic elbow surgery. With Fairbanks out, Andrew Kittredge, JT Chargois, Matt Wisler and offseason signee Brooks Raley look like the top options to take the most important outs late in games at the start of the season.