Rays righty Shawn Armstrong won’t be ready for the start of the season, reports Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Armstrong, who’s dealing with a neck injury, is “highly unlikely to be ready” for Opening Day, manager Kevin Cash tells Topkin. The team is still working to ascertain a more specific diagnosis.
Armstrong, 32, bounced between four teams from 2019-22 but twice found his way to the Rays and, in 2022, finally had the breakout showing of which several clubs clearly believed him to be capable. In 55 innings with Tampa Bay, he posted a solid 3.60 ERA with even more encouraging strikeout, walk and ground-ball rates of 26%, 6% and 49.7% — all of which are better than the league average. Armstrong’s heater sat at a career-best 95.6 mph with Tampa Bay in 2022, and his 12.3% swinging-strike rate, and 38% opponents’ chase rate both suggest he could have more strikeouts in the tank.
Armstrong was a lock to make the club, both based on last year’s performance and his lack of minor league options, so he’ll be placed on the Major League injured list at some point. Candidates to replace him in the big league bullpen to begin the season include righties Calvin Faucher and Rule 5 selection Kevin Kelly, both of whom are on the 40-man roster. Kelly would have to hold his spot on the MLB roster or be offered back to the Guardians upon clearing waivers. The Rays are expected to select the contract of non-roster righty Trevor Kelley later this month, and other non-roster veterans who’ll be vying for the open spot include Heath Hembree, Kyle Crick and Ryan Burr — among many others.
Some other notes from the division…
- The Rays are going to begin taking a look at shortstop prospect Greg Jones out in the outfield, tweets Topkin. The 2019 first-rounder has played exclusively at short in his minor league career to date, but the Rays place an emphasis on defensive versatility in all their players and the team has Wander Franco entrenched at shortstop. Jones, who was selected to the 40-man roster over the winter, ranked as the No. 91 prospect in baseball prior to the 2022 season, per MLB.com, but his stock dipped a bit with last year’s .238/.318/.392 showing in 358 Double-A plate appearances. Jones appeared in 79 games, but that was actually a career-high, as he’s been plagued by both shoulder and leg injuries in his young career. FanGraphs credits Jones with 80-grade speed, and Baseball America lauds his athleticism, writing that some scouts believe he can be a plus defender in center field. Adding some outfield work to his skill set will only create further opportunities for the 25-year-old switch-hitter to work his way onto the big league roster.
- The Red Sox got a scare earlier this week when infielder Justin Turner was hit in the face with a pitch. Though the scene was quite scary to look at, with a trainer holding a towel to Turner’s bloody face, it appears for now as though Turner has avoided any kind of nightmare scenario. Turner’s wife later reported that the slugger required 16 stitches but didn’t fracture anything. Manager Alex Cora provided an update today, relayed by Mike Monaco of NESN, saying that Turner will probably get those stitches removed in two weeks. With just over three weeks until Opening Day, there could be some time there for Turner to make it back on the field, but Cora says it’s too early to think about that. It’s possible Turner might still miss a bit of time, but given how gruesome the scene was to watch, a small absence would likely be considered a good outcome.