Posted on September 6, 2019, by Bryan Zarpentine

Tampa Bay Rays Tyler Glasnow
Image via cbssports.com

It’s utterly amazing that the Tampa Bay Rays have managed to stay in the playoff race without their two aces, Blake Snell and Tyler Glasnow. But they may not be without them much longer. The club announced Friday that Glasnow will come off the Injured List on Sunday to start against the Blue Jays. Snell is also close to returning, as he’s set for a rehab start this weekend. Getting one or both of those pitchers back could be massive for the Rays heading down the stretch.

The Rays haven’t had the services of Glasnow since the middle of May when he landed on the IL with a strained forearm. In the eight starts he made before then, the 26-year-old was 6-1 with a 1.88 ERA. He finally appeared to be developing into a true ace before the forearm issue popped up.

After missing nearly four months of action, Glasnow is finally ready to return. In addition to several bullpen sessions, he made two minor league rehab starts. The caveat of Glasnow’s return is that his innings will be limited while he works to build up his endurance like he would in spring training. He’s likely to only pitch two or three innings on Sunday.

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“We are not in a position right now where we can just guarantee pitches for anybody, so we’ll monitor how he’s feeling, how the ball is coming out,” said Rays manager Kevin Cash. “Hopefully, he can kind of harness it and get some command early.”

Assuming all goes well on Sunday, there should be enough time left in the season for Glasnow to make at least three or four starts. That should be enough time to build up enough arm strength to throw 100-plus pitches in a start by the time the playoffs roll around, assuming the Rays get there.

Snell is in a similar situation, although he hasn’t missed quite as much time. The reigning Cy Young winner went to the IL in late July after undergoing surgery to remove loose bodies from his elbow. Roughly six weeks after the surgery, Snell will appear in a minor league game on Saturday. If everything goes well, the Rays could move him back into their rotation for his next scheduled start.

Since he hasn’t missed as much time as Glasnow, Snell wouldn’t require as much time to increase his pitch count. Barring a setback, the lefty will surely have enough time to get back up to speed by the end of the regular season. Of course, Snell hasn’t been quite as dominant this season, going 6-7 with a 4.28 ERA over 20 starts. But he’s still the leader of Tampa’s rotation.

Despite barely having Glasnow at all this season and going without Snell for the last six weeks, the Rays retain a slim lead atop the American League Wild Card standings. At the start of Friday, the Rays, Indians, and Athletics were separated by just a game and a half. Two of the three teams will likely end up playing one another in the Wild Card game while the third will be left out of the postseason.

In such a tight race, any innings the Rays can get from Glasnow and Snell late in the year they will gladly take. Both will also be prime candidates to start the Wild Card Game if the Rays make it that far. In the event the Rays advance to the ALDS, having Glasnow and Snell healthy would Tampa a fighting chance to advance. In other words, getting Glasnow and Snell back healthy could have a massive impact on the American League playoff picture, both in September and October.

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