Tampa Bay Rays fill needs as necessary when injury bug hits
By George Curcio
Perhaps the most “popular” apparatus this season in the Tampa Bay Rays’ clubhouse is the injury-go-round, where players, usually pitchers, sometimes stay a long while once they have jumped on the injured list. In fact, the Rays set a team record this past Friday when they had 16 players on the IL.
The most glaring example has been Tyler Glasnow, who was seeming to have a Cy Young Award-type of season when he was injured in mid-June. His case has now progressed to the point of Tommy John surgery, sidelining him until the 2023 season.
That prognosis has presented a bit of a quandary for the Rays as to how they proceed in the future, either keeping Glasnow, cutting him loose or hoping to flip him to another team for a fair exchange.
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Tampa Bay Rays most recent IL concerns
The most recent glaring injury concern came this weekend when outfielder Randy Arozarena was forced to the COVID-19-related injury list. As a result, Arozarena did not accompany the team to Baltimore for their series in Camden Yards.
The magnitude of missing that series becomes clear when seeing that Arozarena was hitting .459 against the Orioles this year, including going eight-for-16 at Camden Yards, with three homers and eight RBIs there.
Arozarena has also been on fire the last two weeks, leaving Rays’ fans salivating as they looked forward to his performance in the weekend series.
Fortunately for the Tampa Bay Rays, it was Baltimore they were playing this weekend. As the Toronto Blue Jays were meeting the Boston Red Sox, the Rays were beating up on the Orioles and doing it in typical Rays’ fashion.
Tampa Bay Rays pound the Orioles
In the first game of the series, trade-deadline acquisition Jordan Luplow had two hits, a walk, and scored two runs en route to a 10-6 Rays’ win. Luplow has been hitting .184 this season, but it did not matter. He nonetheless contributed at the time he was needed, in typical Rays’ fashion.
Also stepping up at the plate in big fashion was Nelson Cruz, another trade-deadline acquisition. Cruz had a home run and five RBIs in Friday night’s win then added another dinger, double, and two RBIs in Saturday night’s 12-3 Rays’ shellacking of the Orioles.
Also of note on Saturday night was the return of reliever Collin McHugh, who returned from the injured list by hurling a scoreless ninth inning. The return of McHugh provides some hopeful help in the bullpen, where the Rays have felt the majority of injury woes this year.
When performance is needed, where it is needed, is when and where the Rays have been stepping up this season, and it has led to this cohesive group sitting atop the standings in the AL East. One stellar example of this is Joey Wendle, who can play second, shortstop, or third. Wendle started Saturday night’s game at third base, went three-for-five, and scored four runs.
Wendle, a .280 hitter, has been performing that way all season, and is perhaps the embodiment of the “Rays’ way.”
That “way” continued on Sunday afternoon when Brett Phillips started in centerfield. Phillips was replacing Kevin Kiermaier, who is day-to-day after experiencing some soreness in his right knee.
Per the script, Phillips entered the game hitting .206, and by the time it was over, he had two homers and five RBIs in leading the Rays to a 9-6 comeback win and series sweep.
On the downside, starting pitcher Michael Wacha had his second bad game in a row, allowing five runs on ten hits in five innings pitched. JT Chargois, acquired at the deadline from Seattle for Diego Castillo, turned in his third good relief outing to get the win. Chargois’ performance, coupled with McHugh’s the night before, provides hope for the Rays’ relief corps.
The Rays now head to Boston with a four-game lead over the Red Sox.