The Tampa Bay Rays have been known for cultivating young, talented arms throughout their organization, and it's no different with 22-year-old Luis Patiño. However, injury and now his second stint with the Durham Bulls this season have limited his contributions.
Acquired in the Blake Snell trade with the Padres in 2020, Patiño generated quite a bit of excitement as one of the top prospects coming over from San Diego's organization. Just last year, he put up very respectable numbers across 77.1 innings, recording 74 strikeouts, a 1.27 WHIP, and holding opposing batters to just a .232 batting average. With a full offseason of training, I think many fans were excited to see what he could do as a potential full-time starter this year, but things started to unravel in just his first start.
13 pitches in, he felt something was wrong and immediately exited the game with a left oblique strain. A massive blow for Rays fans already feeling the heat with virtually an entire pitching staff injured and on the shelf. He worked harder than ever to get back on to the field, constanly updating fans on Instagram of his progress:
He was finally able to return to competitive action with the FCL Rays on June 6 and compiled 6 minor league rehab starts spanning through July 2nd, recording a 3.57 ERA and 1.25 WHIP. Patiño rejoined the Major League club shortly after but only recorded two appearances against Baltimore and Kansas City with some lackluster numbers. Now, he'e being optioned back to Triple-A in order to reinstate Jeffrey Springs on the big league roster:
It's tough to think such a talented arm is struggling a bit with his command and poise at the moment, but we do have to remember how young and inexperienced Patiño is. Again, he's only 22 and has the velocity some pitchers could only dream of at his age. According to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, manager Kevin Cash explained that the move will "allow him to get into a regular routine in a less-pressurized environment... I think there's still work to be done."
I have to agree with Cash here about the move being made because it's likely with the lockout happening prior to the start of this season, Patiño wasn't able to have the spring training pitching program he probably would have endured if it was a normal start to the season. This may have had an impact on the way Luis was able to ramp up for the season, but I believe this is the perfect situation for him to keep a steady routine and hone in on commanding his four-pitch arsenal.
Obviously, it's tough for any player to get sent back down to the minors after getting a real taste of what the MLB is like. However, this is a great opportunity for both Patiño and fans to get excited about what's to come. Luis' drive and passion for this game is infectious and you can see his work ethic is no slouch either. I have no doubts that "El Electrico" will return stronger than ever to take the hill for the Rays once again in the playoff pursuit.