The Rays received just about the best news possible after Tyler Glasnow removed himself from the game on Friday night against the Yankees. The prognosis: a forearm strain that should only sideline the early Cy Young front runner for 4-6 weeks.
Tampa Bay has been leading the division in wins in part due to Glasnow’s performance. Can they stay atop the totem pole without him? What options do they have to replace his innings?
The Rays have been utilizing both the Opener strategy and bullpen days along the way, but if there were a starting rotation up until this point, it would have been Blake Snell (3.56 ERA, 2.88 FIP, 43.0), Tyler Glasnow (1.86 ERA, 2.20 FIP, 48.1 IP), Charlie Morton (2.64 ERA, 2.86 FIP, 44.1 IP), Yonny Chirinos (3.61 ERA, 4.81 FIP, 42.1 IP), and Ryan Yarbrough (ugly stats here).
Okay, we can get into it. Yarbrough was demoted after posting an 8.10 ERA. 4.67 FIP over five appearances (16.2 IP), but has since put up a far better 1.80 ERA and 2.02 FIP over three appearances (15.0 IP) in Triple-A.
Yarbrough suffered a groin injury that prevented him being properly stretched out ahead of the regular season and his game suffered accordingly. Averaging five innings in three appearances (two starts) for Durham bodes well for his chances to rejoin the Rays roster soon.
LHP Jalen Beeks (29.0 IP in 10 appearances), the return in last year’s Nathan Eovaldi trade, has anchored the bullpen in terms of innings pitched. He’s been locked into a once through the order role, with no sign (thus far) of re-introducing a major league starter’s schedule. Two appearances ago he gobbled up 6.2 IP against the Royals, though, so if he could do that on the regular, the article ends here.
Are there other starters-in-waiting in the Rays system? Jose De Leon began his 30-day rehabilitation assignment post-Tommy John surgery on May 5th, throwing 1.2 innings. Current top pitching prospect Brendan McKay, is still in Double-A. Would-be starter RHP Jake Faria (7.23 ERA in Triple A) has yet to return to 2017 form.
The only other starter performing well in Triple-A has been Casey Sadler, who has been with the Rays for much of May after putting up a 1.84 ERA over four appearances. He now serves a role similar to Beeks, absorbing two innings at a time. Perhaps Sadler could be stretched out by the Rays or put on a more rotational schedule, but that’s always a tricky thing to accomplish at the major league level.
Ryan Yarbrough reaching the majors in a more stretched out role will help the Rays stabilize their rotation. Off-days will help the Rays balance the pitching rotation, but those slip away come Memorial Day weekend in Cleveland, the last weekend of May.
Perhaps a bullpen day can bridge the gap on occasion, but the Rays will likely need innings from a name they can trust. Hopefully that name is internal, whether that be a Durham starter lowering their ERA to anything palatable, or Jose De Leon cruising through his rehabilitation on gossamer wings.
If not, one has to wonder if the Rays would be willing to suck the helium from the get-better-soon balloon sent by the Double-A Montgomery Biscuits. Sporting one of the more impressive lines in the next level down is Brendan McKay, whose draft peers have already begun appearing in the majors (McKay had an oblique strain slow his progress last season).
Scouts believe McKay could answer the call, but would the Rays be so bold as to try what worked before with now-closer Jose Alvarado? The answer is, in all likelihood, no.
If none of these names can rise to the Rays needs in a challenging month, would the team look outside the organization for another trade? The front office acted quickly to fill the short term need at catcher in Travis d’Arnaud, and they could do it again for Glasnow.
Who the Rays would target is a much more difficult question, but the clock for making that decision is ticking. Memorial Day weekend is less than two weeks away.