Will Rays’ Shane Baz return this season due to elbow injury?

Tampa Bay Rays 11 Shane Baz

A 2022 return for Shane Baz is looking increasingly doubtful, writes Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Tampa Bay Rays skipper Kevin Cash told the Rays beat this week that a recent scan of Baz’s right elbow went “well,” but Baz still won’t begin even light throwing for at least another two weeks.

That timetable would give Baz, who’s been out since July 14 due to an elbow sprain, six weeks to go from playing catch, to throwing bullpen sessions, to facing live hitters, to a minor league rehab assignment and eventual reinstatement from the injured list. Baz was moved to the 60-day IL just two days after the team placed him on the 15-day IL and announced a four-week shutdown, so they’ve clearly been expecting a lengthy absence all along.

That 60-day period would allow Baz to be activated in mid-September, although following this latest update, it sounds as though a late-September or early October return is a best-case scenario. In theory anyway, that could set the stage for a postseason return, particularly if the Rays make a deep run, though both Baz and the team have several hurdles yet to clear before that’s an earnest consideration.

Ranked by Baseball America earlier this season as the top pitching prospect in the entire sport, the 23-year-old Baz has been limited to just six appearances on the season — the final of which saw him surrender seven runs in 2 1/3 frames before heading to the injured list. The 6-foot-2 righty has overwhelmed Triple-A lineups, pitching to a 1.58 ERA in parts of two seasons, and carries a 4.02 ERA in a smaller sample of 40 2/3 big league innings.

Baz has been one of several notable arms absent from the Rays’ rotation for much of the season. Also on the shelf for a notable portion of the season thus far have been Tyler Glasnow, Luis Patino, Brendan McKay, Yonny Chirinos and Josh Fleming (all of which have come in addition to briefer IL stints for righty Drew Rasmussen and breakout lefty Jeffrey Springs).

Beyond the continued no-throw period for Baz, there’s ominous news regarding reliever J.P. Feyereisen; Topkin further reports he’ll head for an MRI after experiencing shoulder discomfort while playing catch. That scan will take place today.

Acquired from the Brewers in the trade that sent Willy Adames to Milwaukee last year, Feyereisen has been one of baseball’s best relievers since coming to Tampa Bay. Already a solid member of the Milwaukee relief corps, he’s broken out with a 1.48 ERA in 61 innings since the trade — including a staggering 24 1/3 innings of shutout baseball to begin the 2022 season. Feyereisen punched out 29.1 percent of his opponents this season against a 5.8 percent walk rate before hitting the injured list due to an impingement in his right shoulder. Presumably, a potential timetable for Feyereisen’s return will become clearer following today’s imaging, but he’s already missed more than two months on the injured list.

In more positive news on the injury front, the Rays announced this week that outfielder Manuel Margot, who’s been out since mid-June with a sprained patellar tendon in his knee, has been cleared for a rehab assignment. Margot went 0-for-3 with the Rays’ rookie-level Florida Complex League affiliate last night and figures to move up the ladder over the next couple weeks. He’s been on the injured list since June 21 and is eligible to be reinstated from the 60-day IL on Aug. 20.

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