Rays History

Tampa Bay Rays History: Tony Saunders Breaks Arm During Rehab Game

By David Hill
13 Mar 1998: Pitcher Tony Saunders of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in action during a spring training game against the Philadelphia Phillies at the Al Lang Stadium in St. Petersburgh, Florida. Mandatory Credit: David Seelig /Allsport
13 Mar 1998: Pitcher Tony Saunders of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in action during a spring training game against the Philadelphia Phillies at the Al Lang Stadium in St. Petersburgh, Florida. Mandatory Credit: David Seelig /Allsport /
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Tony Saunders was expected to become a top of the rotation starter for the Tampa Bay Rays. On this day in 2000, his career came to an end when he broke his arm for a second time while throwing a pitch.

When looking through the highlights of the most devastating injuries in baseball history, one almost always comes across Tony Saunders. The Tampa Bay Rays lefty was expected to develop into a solid piece of the rotation, until one fateful night in 1999. On May 26, Saunders went to throw a pitch, but his arm snapped, as he collapsed on the mound in pain.

However, Saunders would not be deterred. He battled his way back, and eventually began a minor league rehab assignment. Following two games for the Charleston RiverDogs, Saunders was promoted to the St. Petersburg Devil Rays. There, in his second outing in the Florida State League, disaster struck again.

Saunders had been getting hit, but looked healthy until this day in 2000. As he went to fire a pitch, his arm snapped once again. The ball went sailing for a wild pitch, and Saunders was again crumpled on the mound in pain. With his arm having broken a second time from throwing a pitch, his career was over.

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Even with this latest setback, Saunders did not give up. Five years later, he resurfaced, appearing with the Baltimore Orioles. He pitched in Spring Training, although he did not end up making a regular season appearance for the organization. Saunders did appear in the independent Golden Baseball League as a reliever, posting a 2.70 ERA and a 1.600 WHiP in his ten innings before bringing his career to an official end.

While Saunders may not have been on track to be a star, he could have been a solid piece of the rotation. He had thrown 192.1 innings in 1998, and had he been able to improve his command, could have developed into a solid middle of the rotation arm. Given the Rays pitching woes at the beginning of franchise history, Saunders could have been a key part of those early teams.

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Instead, one has to wonder what would have been. On this day in 2000, while attempting to come back from his first broken arm, Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Tony Saunders snapped his arm once again.

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