Posted on July 25, 2019, by Bryan Zarpentine

Tampa Bay Rays Blake Snell
Image via si.com

What was once a promising season for the Tampa Bay Rays could be slowly slipping away. On Thursday, the club announced that reigning Cy Young winner Blake Snell has been placed on the 10-day Injured List and will undergo elbow surgery to remove loose bodies. Snell will have the surgery on Monday and is expected to be sidelined for at least four weeks, leaving the Rays without their ace until at least September.

The injury news comes at an unusual time for Snell. Coming off a brilliant 2018 campaign, Snell was outstanding in April, leveled off in May, and then struggled in June. However, he’s come back around lately, posting a 1.13 ERA over his three starts in July. In his most-recent outing, Snell tossed six shutout innings against the White Sox, showing no signs that anything was wrong with him physically.

The surgery Snell will undergo next week is an arthroscopic procedure that’s considered relatively minor as far as elbow surgeries are concerned. The Rays are “confident” that Snell will be back before the end of the season, most likely in early September. However, current Red Sox and former Rays pitcher Nathan Eovaldi underwent a similar procedure in late April and only recently returned after three months.

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Even if Snell is back in four weeks as expected, it’s still a massive blow to the Rays. Despite some mixed results, the Rays know what Snell is capable of pitching at a Cy Young level when he’s at his best. His recent performances suggested he was rounding into form for the stretch run. It will be nearly impossible for the Rays to replace Snell when he’s anywhere close to his best.

Tampa is already without young ace Tyler Glasnow, who was arguably the best pitcher in baseball the first six weeks of the season. Glasnow has been out longer than expected and the Rays still aren’t sure if he’ll make it back before the end of the season. With both pitchers sidelined for the immediate future, the Rays could struggle to stay afloat in the American League Wild Card race.

As it stands, the Rays have just one traditional starter in their rotation in Charlie Morton. Yonny Chirinos has also started 15 games to give them a little more length. Also, the Rays are likely to bring back two-way rookie Brendan McKay to help fill the void left by Snell. However, the injuries have piled up fast for Tampa. In addition to Snell and Glasnow, the team’s top “opener” Ryne Stanek is also on the IL. In short, a team that’s built to win with pitching is missing many of their top pitchers.

At the moment, the Rays are a game behind Oakland for the second Wild Card spot in the American League. There are two other teams within four games of that spot, guaranteeing a tight race over the final two months of the season. Staying in the race for the next month without Snell will be a great challenge. They may be forced to trade for a starter prior to next week’s trade deadline. If Snell does indeed return in four weeks, he’ll provide the Rays with a big lift in September. However, there’s no denying that Tampa’s playoff hopes have taken a huge hit.

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