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The Tampa Bay Rays in a surprise move on Friday placed right-handed starter Drew Rasmussen on 60-day injured list with a flexor strain in his throwing elbow. Marc Topkin adds that Rasmussen is hoping to avoid surgery, though he will be shut down for the next eight weeks. That puts him on track to return in August, barring any setbacks.

Rasmussen, 27, has enjoyed a standout season for the Rays thus far in 2023. Over a span of eight starts and 44 2/3 innings, he's pitched to a 2.62 ERA and a 4.27 K/BB ratio. In 2022, his first full season with Tampa Bay, he put up similar numbers across 28 starts and 146 innings. The Rays originally acquired Rasmussen as part of the May 2021 trade that most notably sent shortstop Willy Adames to the Brewers. Now a key rotation piece for the Rays, Rasmussen will be sidelined for at least the next two months. 

Although the Rays have stormed to an MLB-best 30-9 record and first place in the tough American League East, they've been hit hard by pitching injuries thus far. In the rotation, Shane Baz and Jeffrey Springs are out after undergoing Tommy John surgery and will likely miss the remainder of the 2023 season (that's certainly the case for Springs, who underwent the procedure in April). They're also without ace Tyler Glasnow, who's still working his way back from an oblique injury suffered during spring training. 

The Rays and manager Kevin Cash are not averse to using openers and planning occasional bullpen games, and they may need to lean even more on those unconventional approaches now that they have just two healthy starting pitchers -- Zach Eflin and Shane McClanahan. Compounding matters for the Rays is that a number of key relievers are also injured at the moment.