Hard-throwing rookie Shane Baz will make his much-anticipated 2022 debut for Tampa Bay on Saturday afternoon when the Rays try to even their series with the Minnesota Twins in Minneapolis.

The 22-year-old right-hander, who has touched 100 mph with his fastball and helped lead Team USA to a silver medal in the Tokyo Olympics last summer, is rated the top prospect in Tampa Bay’s system and No. 12 overall by MLB.com.

Baz will be making his fourth career major league start. He went 2-0 with a 2.03 ERA in three starts at the end of the 2021 season, allowing three runs on six hits over 13 1/3 innings while striking out 18 and walking three. He also started Game 2 of the American League Division Series against the Boston Red Sox last October, when he gave up three runs on six hits in 2 1/3 innings.

Baz, the 12th overall pick of the 2017 draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates, was the player to be named in a deal that sent Tyler Glasnow and Austin Meadows to Tampa Bay for Chris Archer in July 2018. Coincidentally, Archer will be watching from Minnesota’s dugout on Saturday.

The Houston native will take the rotation spot of left-hander Ryan Yarbrough, who was optioned to Triple-A Durham on Tuesday after going 0-3 with a 5.65 ERA in seven games (six starts).

Baz had his start to the 2022 season delayed after undergoing arthroscopic right elbow surgery in March. He made four starts during a minor league rehab assignment with Durham and allowed two runs on eight hits and four walks while striking out 20 over 13 innings. He fanned 10 and worked 4 1/3 innings while tossing 79 pitches in his final rehab start on Sunday.

“He checked every box along the way throughout his rehab,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “You could argue that he’s had a more normal progression build-up than anybody on this roster. We were really pleased with the way he threw the other night. … Excited to have him here.”

Baz will try to slow a Minnesota offense that has scored 24 runs and smashed 10 home runs over its past three games. The Twins amassed 13 hits in a 9-4 victory over the Rays in the series opener on Friday night.

Byron Buxton, tied for second in the major leagues with 17 home runs, hit two on Friday after belting two on Thursday in Minnesota’s 10-7 loss to the New York Yankees. Buxton became the fifth player in franchise history to have consecutive multi-homer games, joining Harmon Killebrew, Don Mincher, Kirby Puckett and Eddie Rosario.

Over his past three games, he is 6-for-13 (.462) with five home runs, seven RBIs and seven runs.

“Just stay aggressive and keep doing what we’re doing,” Buxton said when asked how Minnesota can continue its offensive momentum. “We’re going up there and having great at-bats, quality at-bats. Just keep pushing that line down to the next guy and keep winning.”

Right-hander Chi Chi Gonzalez (0-0, 9.00 ERA) will make his second start of the season for Minnesota.

Gonzalez, who is 9-23 with a 5.68 ERA in 62 career games and 48 starts, will be facing the Rays for the first time in his career. He allowed three runs, including home runs to George Springer and Vladimir Guerrero Jr., on four hits over three innings in his only previous start this season, a no-decision at Toronto on June 3.

–Field Level Media