Rays right-hander Shane Baz, who has been out since July 14 due to an elbow sprain, will not make it back to a Major League mound in 2022, tweets Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Baz has resumed throwing, but it seems there’s simply not enough time to get him built back up to the point where he’d be a viable option for Tampa Bay.
It’s a sour note on which to end an already injury-decimated season for Baz, who entered the year ranked as one of the top-ranked prospects in all of baseball. The 23-year-old righty underwent an arthroscopic procedure to remove loose bodies from his elbow back in early April — a minor surgery that was originally only expected to halt him from throwing for around three weeks. He wound up taking more than two months to return to the big league mound, however, and just one month after returning from that issue, the current elbow sprain popped up to shut him down again.
In all, Baz pitched just 27 big league innings plus another 13 while on a minor league rehab assignment from that original injury. He struggled mightily in his first and last starts of the season (combined 12 runs in 4 2/3 innings), but those served as bookends for a tantalizing run of four starts that displayed why Baz is so highly touted: three runs on 16 hits and six walks with 26 punchouts in 22 1/3 innings. Overall, Baz posted a 5.00 ERA in his 27 frames, but it’s quite possible that the elbow was an issue in his final outing, when he was hammered for seven runs.
If there’s a silver lining it’s that Baz is once again throwing, and the Rays have given no indication that any surgery is on the horizon. Sprains, by definition, involve some degree of stretching and/or tearing in a ligament, so any “elbow sprain” for a pitcher always comes with some concern regarding potential surgery (be it ligament replacement/Tommy John surgery or a less-invasive but still significant operation, such as Primary Repair).
Baz will pick up a year of service for his 2022 season, having spent the entirety of it on either the Major League injured list or the active Major League roster. He’s still controllable for another five years beyond the current campaign, however, setting the stage for him to join the likes of 2022 Cy Young candidate Shane McClanahan and late-blooming breakout hurlers Drew Rasmussen and Jeffrey Springs in the rotation for the foreseeable future. The Rays also extended Tyler Glasnow, who’s wrapping up rehab from Tommy John surgery, just last month. He’s now signed through the 2024 season.
Between that quintet and a host of other talented arms and prospects — Yonny Chirinos, Luis Patino, Josh Fleming and Taj Bradley among them — the Rays perennial pipeline of high-end pitching appears as strong as ever.