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Jeffrey Springs to have Tommy John surgery

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CINCINNATI — Rays starter Jeffrey Springs will undergo Tommy John surgery, which will sideline the left-hander for the rest of the year and into the 2024 season.

After being evaluated by team physician Dr. Koco Eaton and receiving a second opinion from Dr. Keith Meister on Tuesday, Springs was placed on the 15-day injured list Tuesday afternoon with a left elbow flexor strain. The club officially announced that Springs will undergo surgery on Saturday.

Springs exited his start against the Red Sox last Thursday after just three innings due to what the club initially announced as ulnar neuritis in his left arm. The Rays did not place him on the injured list until Tuesday, which allowed them to recall top prospect Taj Bradley from Triple-A Durham to start Tuesday night at Great American Ball Park.

“Obviously, he’s going on the IL with an elbow issue,” manager Kevin Cash said Tuesday afternoon. “I think, in fairness to Jeff, he’s still processing the information that he’s gotten. He met with a doctor today, so I think we’re a day or two from him coming up with a decision on what is ideal for him and then a timetable.”

It’s devastating news for Springs, who has emerged over the last year as one of the Majors’ most effective starters, and another tough break for Tampa Bay on the injury front. Top starter Tyler Glasnow (strained left oblique) has not pitched this season and likely won’t join the rotation until May. Free-agent addition Zach Eflin (lower back tightness) is on the 15-day injured list, although he’s likely to return Sunday.

Now, they’ll be without Springs all season. The typical timeframe to return from Tommy John surgery is 12 to 15 months, which would get Springs back in the mix for the Rays late next April at the earliest.

“Injury sucks, regardless of what it is. And Springs is, A, such a good human being, but, B, he’s a big part of this team,” starter Drew Rasmussen said. “So to lose a guy like that, it’s tough. You just look at what we’ve gone through the last couple years as a starting staff and the arms we’ve lost, it is definitely tough. 

“But this organization has done such a great job of developing talent and stockpiling as many quality arms as possible, so we have depth. We have the ability to weather the storm a little bit.”

Acquired from Boston in a February 2021 trade, Springs first established himself as a valuable reliever for Tampa Bay before undergoing season-ending surgery to repair a torn ACL in his right knee that August. He was back in the bullpen to begin last season, then the Rays moved him into their injury-depleted rotation.

Springs thrived as a starter, posting a 2.65 ERA with 130 strikeouts in 122 1/3 innings over 24 starts after May 9. The Rays rewarded him for his performance, and bet on him repeating it, by signing him to a four-year, $31 million contract extension that could pay him up to $65.75 million over the next five seasons.

Springs got off to an excellent start to this year, throwing 14 shutout innings during Spring Training then working 13 scoreless innings with 19 strikeouts over his first two outings in the regular season.

The Rays have already had to tap into their depth options this season. Josh Fleming filled the Opening Day rotation spot left vacant by Glasnow, Yonny Chirinos is holding down a spot in the bullpen, Bradley has made two starts, and Cooper Criswell came up to pitch four innings on Monday night. The Rays could also turn to starter Luis Patiño, who is currently at Triple-A, at some point.

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