Athletics right-handers Drew Rucinski and Yacksel Rios will see their 2023 seasons draw to a close early due to injury, per MLB.com’s Martin Gallegos (Twitter links). Rios underwent surgery yesterday to repair an axillary branch aneurysm in his right shoulder. Rucinski will require back surgery to address what was described by the team in late June to be a degenerative condition. Both players are on the 60-day injured list already.
Rucinski, 34, had hoped to establish himself in the big leagues this season after starring in the Korea Baseball Organization for the past several years. The journeyman righty had just 54 big league innings under his belt prior to this season, all coming between 2014-18. He didn’t pitch particularly well in that time (5.33 ERA) but spent the 2019-22 seasons with the NC Dinos of the Korea Baseball Organization, pitching to a combined 3.06 ERA in 732 2/3 innings of work. The right-hander displayed remarkable consistency overseas, with his ERA sitting between 2.97 and 3.17 in all four of his KBO campaigns.
When his latest contract with the Dinos expired after the 2022 campaign, Rucinski set his sights on a return to North American ball. The A’s, hoping to find similar success to the D-backs (Merrill Kelly) and Mariners (Chris Flexen) in their own KBO dealings, signed Rucinski to a one-year deal worth a guaranteed $3MM.
Clearly, things haven’t gone as hoped. Rucinski pitched just 18 innings for Oakland, missing time first with a stomach illness, then with a knee sprain and now this current back injury. He was perhaps never at 100 percent, as the righty was tagged for 18 runs on 27 hits and 14 walks with just six strikeouts in his 18 frames for the A’s. His contract has a $5MM option for the 2024 season, though that’ll surely be bought out.
Rios, acquired in a cash deal with the Braves last month after he triggered an upward mobility clause in his contract, pitched in just three games for the A’s. In a total of 1 2/3 frames, he yielded seven runs on three hits and six walks. It was a substantial downturn from the excellent 2.49 ERA, 30.3% strikeout rate and 8.1% walk rate the hard-throwing Rios had posted in Triple-A with the Braves.
Rios has seen time in parts of six big league seasons, pitching to a combined 6.32 ERA in 98 1/3 frames. He throws hard, misses bats and has had decent results in Triple-A (4.12 ERA in six seasons), so he should get another look as a depth option somewhere in the offseason. For now, he’ll accrue Major League service time and salary on the 60-day IL. That’ll take him over three years of MLB service, making him eligible for arbitration this winter. He’ll be a non-tender candidate for the A’s following the season.