Tampa Bay Rays right-handed relief pitcher Andrew Kittredge will undergo Tommy John surgery to remove loose bodies in his right elbow, manager Kevin Cash announced Friday night in advance of the Rays' loss to the Twins.
Kittredge was originally placed on the 15-day IL on Thursday, and Calvin Faucher was recalled from AAA-Durham to take his spot on the active roster. However, the injury is worse than originally thought, and the timetable for Kittredge's return suggests that he is going to miss the rest of 2022 and the better part of the 2023 season. This is more frustrating news for Kittredge, who had just been activated off the IL after recovering from a lower back injury earlier this month.
Kittredge was named to the AL All-Star team in 2021, and he completed the season with a 1.88 ERA, 3.04 FIP, and 8 saves in 71.2 innings. This year, with injuries to teammates Nick Anderson and Peter Fairbanks, he had taken on an increased workload as the closer, with an additional 5 saves in 2022. The Rays have seen plenty of other relievers start off this season on a high note, including Jason Adam, Jalen Beeks, and Brooks Raley, all of whom are candidates to help lock down games in Kittredge's absence.
Still, this is a tough blow to Tampa Bay's bullpen. Since the 2020 season, only 4 relievers in all of baseball have a better ERA than Kittredge's 2.03, and his 3.06 FIP ranks top-25, ahead of prominent closers such as Jordan Romano, Mark Melancon, and former teammate Diego Castillo. Relief pitching is a position where only a small fraction of players can remain consistently dominant for multiple seasons at a time, and Kittredge has been one of the best.
If there is any tradeoff for the Rays, it's the return of Shane Baz, the former top pitching prospect acquired in the Chris Archer trade. Baz took Kittredge's place on the 40-man roster and he will make his season debut on Saturday afternoon. He was called up late in the 2021 season, only pitching 3 games at the Major League level, but he showcased his exciting potential in those games (2.03 ERA, 18 K, 13.1 IP) and he will provide another arm for Kevin Cash to work with now that he is fully healthy again.