Tampa – The Tampa Bay Rays received unwelcome news on Thursday evening as reported by Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Nick Anderson, a key member of the high leverage part of the Rays bullpen has a partial tear of the elbow ligament and will be out of action until at least the All-Star break. As of today, surgery has not been recommended.
Anderson was acquired at the 2019 trade deadline along with Trevor Richards from the Miami Marlins in exchange for Ryne Stanek and Jesus Sanchez go to Miami. At the time of the trade, Anderson had a 2-4 record with a 3.92 ERA. He finished the season with Tampa Bay posting a 3-0 mark with a 2.11 ERA while striking out a ridiculous 56.2% of batters he faced while walking just 2.6%.
The 2020 season was more of the same as Anderson worked to a 2-1 record with an ERA of 0.55 while striking out 44.8% of batters he faced while walking just 5.2%. It should be noted that he missed time landing on the injured list on August 23 with right elbow inflammation. He returned in September and logged seven innings allowing just an earned run while striking out 11 and walking 2.
Anderson ran out of gas in the post-season as he allowed seven earned runs in 7.1-innings of work between the American League Championship Series against the Astros and the World Series against the Dodgers while only striking out three batters and walking four.
This spring, Anderson was well below his usual fastball velocity of around 95 miles per hour and initially blamed it on an issue with his mechanics. While spring training statistics aren’t usually worth looking at, it is telling that Anderson only struck out two batters in his 3.2-innings of work.
With IL stint in 2020, the fatigue observed in the postseason, and the lack of velocity in spring training the fact the there something structurally wrong with Anderson shouldn’t come as a surprise.
Where Do Rays Turn To Replace Anderson?
Without Nick Anderson the backend of the Rays bullpen includes Diego Castillo and Pete Fairbanks. The probability is that Tampa Bay does not try to fill Anderson’s high leverage innings with one reliever but rather multiple guys slotted. Chaz Roe, Ryan Thompson, and Andrew Kittredge could combine to fill the innings. Another intriguing arm is Collin McHugh who has worked as both a starter and reliever in his career.
It would seem that the Rays want McHugh to be a multi-inning reliever but he could also slot to the back of the bullpen in those high leverage spots. In 2018 with the Astros, McHugh worked in 58 games logging 72.1-innings posting a 6-2 mark with a 1.92 ERA while striking out 33.2% of the batters he faced while walking just 7.4%. In 2019 he bounced between a starter (8 games) and reliever (27 games) before an elbow injury cut short his season at the end of August. He underwent a non surgical procedure (tenex procedure) on the elbow. He signed with the Boston Red Sox in 2020 but opted out of the season due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
As the season goes on the Rays will settle their bullpen. If additional arms are needed they may have to dip into their minor leagues (or alternate site). Some intriguing names will be Shane McClanahan and Shane Baz. The former is more likely as he is already on the 40-man roster while the latter is not and hasn’t pitched above Class A (although he spent 2020 at the alternate site).