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Rays Back, Option for Shane Baz

The Rays announced that right-hander Shane Baz he was returned to the injured list and optioned to Triple-A Durham.

Baz, 25 next month, had Tommy John surgery in September of 2022 and missed the entire 2023 season. The club has planned to bring him back here in 2024 after he missed that season and was injured in March.

He started the season in IL but has been rehabbing in recent weeks. He started four games for Triple-A Durham this month, going 12 innings. His most recent outing was yesterday, when he threw 76 pitches in four innings, striking out four, walking three while allowing three hits and one earned run.

The Rays could use him in the majors, given the number of injuries they’re dealing with on the move. Jeffrey Springs, Drew Rasmussen again Shane McClanahan they all had elbow surgery last year and are on the shelf. They were recently joined by Zach Eflin again Jacob Waguespack.

Current rotation includes Aaron Civale, Hello Bradley, Zack Littell, Ryan Pepiot again Tyler Alexander. Both Civale and Alexander are struggling this year, each with an earned run average above 5.00.

Before his surgery, Baz was poised to make a big impact for the Rays. He had a 4.02 ERA in his nine major league starts, striking out 28.9% of the batters he faced while issuing walks just 7.2% of the time. His career in the minors was even more impressive, as he had a 1.68 ERA in Triple-A in 2021 and 2022, which is part of the reason he’s been considered one of the top pitching prospects in the league in recent years.

Given his obvious talent, there’s a case to be made for plugging him into the rotation now. Civale and Alexander each have more experience, but they also have options and could be moved to Triple-A, or in a long relief role in the bullpen.

Instead, the Rays optioned Baz to Triple-A for more work at that level. Maybe that’s a way to guard his career in an environment where wins and losses don’t matter as much, which is a valid consideration. Baz hasn’t pitched in 2022 due to elbow problems before his Tommy John surgery, so he’s several years removed from significant innings. His career high is 92 frames he threw in 2021, not that high when he started and now he has a few years in the rearview mirror. He also hasn’t looked good in his rehab, with 11 walks to just eight strikeouts and a 6.00 ERA.

While there is some logic in keeping him in Durham and guarding him, there will still be consequences for Baz. The righty entered this season with two years and 14 days of major league service time. If he had stayed on the active roster or the injured list for the rest of the season, he would have finished the year with 3.014, just enough to qualify for compensation and be on track for free agency after 2027. If he ends up spending a significant amount of time on a volunteer assignment. , he can change both of those ways, though he might be able to succeed as a Big Two guy even if he’s just shy of the three-year mark.

In the meantime, he will continue with whatever plan the Rays have to build around him for the rest of the season. Perhaps his return to the big leagues will be prompted by an injury to another teammate or it could be based on some sort of career checklist for Baz to hit.

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