When Drew Strotman found out he made the 40-man roster, he had reason to be thrilled.
A 2017 fourth-rounder from St. Mary’s, the 6-foot-3, 195-pound righthander wasn’t even halfway through his first full pro season when he blew out his elbow and had Tommy John surgery in June 2018.
He did the work to make a relatively quick return 13 months later and built up to pitch for high Class A Charlotte in August 2019, recording a 5.06 ERA with 13 strikeouts in 16 innings, only to have his comeback stalled when the 2020 minor league season was canceled.
But the 24-year-old remained focused through the shutdown and used his time well, continuing to build strength, working on his craft and adding a cutter to his repertoire.
When the Rays opened instructional league in early October, Strotman showed how far he’d come.
“He was extremely impressive,’’ Rays vice president of baseball development Peter Bendix said. “He is now much more removed from his surgery. He pitched at the end of 2019, so he was a healthy pitcher all of this year. He just didn’t have games to pitch in.
“But he absolutely made the most of his time.’’
So much so that he was put on the 40-man roster ahead of the Rule 5 draft, one of three minor leaguers added at the deadline.
The Rays added him even at a time when they are tight on space. They are carrying four injured pitchers who all will spend at least the first part of the 2021 season on the injured list.
Bendix said Strotman was back throwing in the mid 90s during instructs and had command of his arsenal. The addition of his cutter added another weapon, grading out as a “really, really strong” addition to “everything that made him a prospect” before surgery.
“His stuff was really impressive,’’ Bendix said. “Our medical team did a fantastic job getting him back to full strength and then some.”
—The other two additions to the 40-man roster ahead of the Rule 5 draft were somewhat obvious—outfielder Josh Lowe, their 2016 first-rounder and younger brother of first baseman Nate Lowe, and shortstop Taylor Walls, the 2017 third-round pick. Both were part of the 60-player pool during the abbreviated season.
— Shortstop Wander Franco was sidelined early in Dominican League season due to soreness in his shoulder/biceps area, and after a few days of rest was sent from the Dominican Republic to Florida just before Thanksgiving to get checked out by the Rays’ medical staff.