Monday, July 4, 2022

Rays’ Shane Baz gives up grand slam, goes only 2 1/3 innings vs. Twins in 2022 debut

Shane Baz’s return to the Tampa Bay Rays rotation was a bit bumpy Saturday. The right-hander missed the first two months of the season after having surgery to remove loose bodies from his elbow in spring training, and in his season debut Saturday afternoon, he allowed five runs in 2 1/3 innings against the Minnesota Twins (GameTracker).

Four of Minnesota’s five runs came on Luis Arraez’s third inning grand slam. He’s hitting a robust .360/.466/.423 on the season. To the action footage:

The final line is ugly, though Baz looked quite good in his first two innings Saturday, retiring the first six batters he faced on only 20 pitches. Things fell apart in the third inning and Baz did not retire another batter. His third inning went single, walk, walk, grand slam, walk, double. The runner was thrown out trying to stretch the double into a triple, giving Baz his only out of the inning. 

The good news is Baz’s stuff looked lively as ever Saturday. His fastball sat 96.0 mph and topped out at 99.2 mph, and while that average velocity is down a tick from last year, it’s understandable seeing how he’s still building back up post-elbow surgery. Twins batters missed with four of their eight swings against his cutter, and with five of their 19 swings against Baz in general.

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Baz, 23 next week, made his MLB debut last September, making three regular season starts and one postseason start. He was expected to be in Tampa’s Opening Day rotation prior to the spring training elbow surgery. Baz made four Triple-A rehab starts prior to rejoining the Rays. In those starts, he allowed two runs in 13 innings while striking out 20.

Our R.J. Anderson ranked Baz the No. 1 pitching prospect in baseball coming into the season, and the No. 4 prospect overall. Here’s his write-up:

Baz is the lone member of the top 20 who has already reached the majors. He appeared in three regular season contests with the Rays in 2021, accruing a 2.03 ERA and a 6.00 strikeout-to-walk ratio in a small sample of 13 innings. Baz demonstrated during his big-league cameo that he has three swing-and-miss pitches, including an upper-90s fastball (with movement and release-point characteristics that rival Gerrit Cole’s) and a pair of breaking balls. He’s simplified his delivery since being acquired from the Pirates as part of the ill-fated Chris Archer trade, allowing him to tally just 16 walks in 92 combined innings between the majors and minors last season. That would be impressive for anyone, let alone someone who was issuing a walk every other inning prior to the pandemic. Between Baz’s pure stuff and his newfound control, he’s the favorite to eventually succeed Tyler Glasnow (who also came over in that trade) as the Rays ace.  

Baz joins Shane McClanahan, Drew Rasmussen, Corey Kluber, and surprise lefty Jeffrey Springs in Tampa’s rotation. Stalwart lefty Ryan Yarbrough has a 5.65 ERA this season (and a 5.19 ERA the last two seasons) and was demoted to Triple-A to clear room on the roster for Baz. Tampa entered Saturday’s game 11th in baseball with 4.3 WAR from their starting pitchers.

The Rays came into Saturday with a 34-24 record. They are eight games behind the first place New York Yankees in the AL East, though they sit comfortably in a wild card spot at the moment.

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