Rays’ Andrew Kittredge headed for Tommy John elbow surgery

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MINNEAPOLIS — The Rays were disappointed when they first thought Andrew Kittredge, their most reliable reliever the past two seasons, was going to miss a month or so due to arthroscopic surgery to remove a loose body from his elbow.

That feeling got worse Friday, with news that Kittredge, 32, is instead headed for Tommy John elbow surgery that will sideline him for more than a year.

“It goes without saying it’s very unfortunate,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “It does present an opportunity for some other guys to come in and pitch and get some big outs, because I think you can make the case that over the last two years Kitt has gotten the biggest outs in our bullpen.”

Imaging done of Kittredge’s elbow for the loose body, which is usually a bone chip, showed the need to address the larger matter of the tear in his UCL ligament.

That first became an issue for him when he sustained a partial tear during the 2020 season, walking off the mound after facing two batters Aug. 11.

Rather than undergo Tommy John surgery then, Kittredge opted for an extensive program of rest, rehab and a shot of Organogenesis ReNu (amniotic tissue that has regenerative and anti-inflammatory properties). He worked his way back and had his best season in 2021, going 9-3, 1.88 overall in 57 games, with five saves. And he was named a late replacement to the American League All-Star team.

This season he was 3-1, 3.15 with five saves in 17 games, having just returned Sunday from a two-week injured list stint due to a low back tightness. He pitched twice before the elbow became an issue again.

“Applaud Kitt for coming back from an injury like he did in 2020 and being so impactful, making an All-Star team last year,” Cash said. “We just hope that his rehab goes incredibly smooth.”

Kittredge will have the surgery within the next two weeks; with no setbacks he should be able to return sometime in the second half of the 2023 season.

The Rays have several other high-leverage relievers on the injured list as well. JT Chargois, Pete Fairbanks and JP Feyereisen were hurt during the spring or regular season; Nick Anderson is working back from a previous injury.

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