PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. — While the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees deal with worrisome injuries to several of their top players, the Tampa Bay Rays seem to have dodged a bullet with their ace’s health.
2018 AL Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell had a cortisone shot last week to alleviate some discomfort he felt in his elbow. Rays manager Kevin Cash pronounced Snell “totally fine” as he prepared to play catch on Wednesday in advance of a scheduled bullpen session on Friday.
“We anticipate him more or less picking up where he left off,” Cash said. “If we were concerned he would be shut down for a period of time.”
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The news was even better on right-hander Tyler Glasnow, who had his 2019 season limited to just 12 starts because of forearm tightness that sidelined him for four months.
Making his first start of the spring, Glasnow showed flashes of the pitcher he was before the injury — consistently registering in the upper 90s on the Charlotte Sports Park radar gun and tossing a scoreless inning against the Toronto Blue Jays.
The elevated velocity readings didn’t go unnoticed, especially from Glasnow.
“It’s hard for me not to look,” he said. “I’ll be completely honest, I like to look at it.”
Although Glasnow has been working on adding a changeup to his pitch mix, he threw only fastballs with a few curves — one of which got Jays shortstop Bo Bichette swinging on a pitch that bounced in the left-hand batter’s box.
That’s the kind of nasty stuff that produced a 6-1 record and 1.78 ERA in those 12 starts last year. Adding a changeup could mean even more trouble for opposing hitters.
Glasnow says he tweaked the way he throws the pitch to give him a more consistent arm angle and make it look more like a fastball coming out of his hands. Another thing he’s doing differently is holding his glove at varying heights on every pitch. It’s a subtle way to keep from tipping which pitch he’s about to throw.
But for the 6-foot-7 right-hander, everything starts with the fastball.
Of the 13 he threw in his inning vs. Toronto, all but one registered 97 mph or above. As luck would have it, the stadium radar hadn’t been working at any of the Rays’ previous home games … until this one.
“I was in the dugout like, ‘What’s the point of pitching if there’s no radar gun?’” Glasnow joked with reporters after the game.
But for him, the readings do provide a helpful measuring stick.
“Obviously, it doesn’t dictate everything,” Glasnow said. “It’s not like velo is really the most important thing. But in determining the effort I’m putting in and how it’s coming out of my hands, if it feels good and smooth and it’s up there I’m like … hey, it’s good.”
Glasnow and his fastball might also serve notice to the rest of the teams in the AL East. The Rays are back and gunning for the top.
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Steve Gardner on Twitter @SteveAGardner.