Taylor Guerrieri had already skipped his previous start and had also missed his chance to pitch in this year's All-Star Futures Game due to shoulder fatigue. On Monday, a separate malady, at the very least, kept him from making a full start in his return to the mound.
The Rays' top pitching prospect exited his start with Class A Bowling Green early after experiencing elbow soreness in the third inning. Hot Rods manager Jared Sandberg said the right-hander would be re-evaluated by doctors on Tuesday when the team arrived back in Bowling Green to determine the extent of the injury.
Guerrieri, who was only scheduled to go 60 pitches or four innings, whichever came first, had struck out one and allowed one hit in the first two innings against Cedar Rapids before coming out for the third frame. After a 2-2 offering to Tyler Grimes missed the zone, he gestured to catcher Luke Maile to come out to the mound. Sandberg, pitching coach Kyle Snyder and the team's athletic trainer soon joined as well.
"He threw the pitch, and you could see him grimace right after," said the Bowling Green manager, whose team went on to win the contest, 6-5. "We all went out there, and there was no real debate as to whether to keep him out there. We took him out, and we'll get him re-evaluated when we get home.
"He didn't fight it at all or anything like that. I wasn't a pitcher, but any time you feel something in your elbow, it's a concern. This guy's a fighter and a fierce competitor, but he trusts the organization and the doctors, so we'll see where we go from here."
Sandberg didn't believe that this latest injury was at all tied to the previous concern that had kept his star hurler out of Sunday's Futures Game.
"I would say, no," he said. "We skipped that last start to be safe, but I watched his last bullpen and he looked great. He had some real good life to his fastball and looked healthy during that. He was confident in how he was feeling, so we didn't have any worries coming into today."
Before his early exit, Guerrieri's two scoreless frames extended his scoreless streak to 24 innings, tying him with teammate and No. 12 Rays prospect Jeff Ames for the franchise record in that category. As it stands, the 6-foot-3 right-hander is 6-2 with a 2.01 ERA, 0.99 WHIP and 50/11 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 13 starts (65 innings) this season.
Those numbers, along with an already elevated reputation entering the year, were good enough to earn a spot on the US team for the Futures Game before his fatigue forced him to miss the prospect showcase.
With that missed opportunity along with his skipped start and early exit, it appears July just hasn't been Guerrieri's month. Still, his manager sees it as just a small road bump on what could be a promising career for the 20-year-old.
"It's a huge honor for him to be selected obviously," Sandberg said. "He was disappointed he couldn't go, as anyone would be, but he understood what the organization was trying to do. Now that he hasn't had the chance to play in one, it could be an opportunity to push himself further and get back to it.
"In my opinion, he has the chance to be a pitcher in the Major Leagues for a long time, but I think he'll get a chance to pitch in at least one of those coming up."
Matthew Span (3-1) allowed one run on three hits and a walk and struck out three in four innings in relief of Guerrieri to earn the win. Third baseman Tyler Goeddel hit a two-run homer in the fifth, and designated hitter Justin O'Conner finished 2-for-4 with a pair of RBIs.
Kernels right fielder and last week's Midwest League Player of the Week Adam Brett Walker II homered twice and plated three in the losing effort.
Sam Dykstra is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @SamDykstraMiLB.