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The first place Tampa Bay Rays welcomed a big arm back to their rotation Saturday. Right-hander Tyler Glasnow made his season debut against the Los Angeles Dodgers (GameTracker) after missing the start of the season with a strained oblique suffered in spring training. In a corresponding move, the Rays optioned reliever Cooper Criswell to Triple-A.

Glasnow fired 83 pitches in 4 1/3 innings in his season debut, striking out eight and allowing three runs on five hits and a walk. His fastball velocity was down roughly 1 mph from last year, though that is not unexpected given that Glasnow is still building up after missing spring training. He generated 17 misses on 38 swings Saturday, an outstanding 45% swing-and-miss rate.

Glasnow, 29, has been spare in recent years. Saturday's outing marked his 17th start since the beginning of the 2021 season. In the interim, he's dealt with both the oblique issue and the Tommy John surgery he underwent in August 2021. That operation wiped out most of his 2022 campaign, limiting him to just two appearances late in the year.

When Glasnow has been healthy, he's been one of the best pitchers in the majors. In those aforementioned 16 starts, he's compiled a 2.57 ERA (157 ERA+) and a 4.59 strikeout-to-walk ratio across 94 innings. His contributions have been worth an estimated 2.8 Wins Above Replacement, per Baseball Reference's calculations. 

The Rays, who entered Saturday with the best record in Major League Baseball, have been struck by a number of injuries to their rotation. Jeffrey Springs, an early frontrunner for the American League Cy Young Award, had to undergo his own Tommy John surgery in April, while Drew Rasmussen recently went down for at least two months because of a strained flexor. That's without including youngster Shane Baz, who seems unlikely to pitch this season following elbow surgery last September. Getting Glasnow back, then, is welcomed in more ways than one.

Tampa won the series opener against the Dodgers on Friday night by a 9-3 final behind big performances by Yandy Díaz and Christian Bethancourt, among others.