After a two-year pause, Colby White is ready to resume big-league trek

PORT CHARLOTTE — Once upon a time, Colby White zipped through the Rays’ minor-league system at breakneck speed.

A year after the pandemic wiped out the 2020 season, White began 2021 in Class A Charleston, was promoted to high-A Bowling Green, moved up to Double-A Montgomery and finished the year at Triple-A Durham.

Between the four stops, he had a 4-3 record, 1.44 ERA, 11 saves and 104 strikeouts in 62⅓ innings. He looked for all the world as if he would be in Tampa Bay by the summer of 2022.

“I kept hearing everybody saying, ‘You stay healthy. Stay healthy,’” White said. “And I didn’t do that.”

White said he had a break in a bone connected to his ulnar collateral ligament, and ended up having Tommy John surgery in the spring of 2022. He missed that entire season and much of 2023 before coming back and throwing 22 innings with a 1.64 ERA in Double A and a couple of rehab assignments in the lower minors.

“It was tough, it was long, you know, there’s obviously doubt,” said White, a sixth-round pick out of Mississippi State in 2019. “That was my first surgery, so I didn’t know what to expect. But my thing was trying to find consistency. I struggled to do that last year with velocity and stuff and all that. Mainly just let it run its course. I was very excited to be able to go home and let my arm rest for several months, and then when I started back playing catch it was like I didn’t even have surgery.”

White threw batting practice on Thursday and said everything felt normal again.

“Colby, probably featuring two better off-speed pitches than he’s ever featured before, filling the strike zone up with a very unique fastball,” pitching coach Kyle Snyder said. “I’m as confident as I’ve ever been that we’re going to see Colby White return to form.”

Back on the mound, Part II

Left-hander Garrett Cleavinger got hugs from Drew Rasmussen and Shane Baz after throwing a batting practice session on Thursday.

Cleavinger spent much of 2023 rehabbing with Rasmussen and Baz after blowing out his knee while chasing then-Yankees outfielder Aaron Hicks in a rundown in May. Cleavinger and Rasmussen, who had elbow surgery, then worked out together in Arizona in the offseason. Cleavinger said his knee was finally back to full health after he came back to St. Petersburg to throw his first two bullpen sessions in January.

“After that, I went back home for another month,” Cleavinger said. “I think that month I really got over the hump with it a little bit. I feel good now.”

Snyder said Cleavinger was hitting 94 mph on Thursday and getting horizontal movement on his sinker and vertical movement on his fastball.

“Cleavinger broke out a new sweeper,” Snyder said of his curveball. “We’ll probably try to tighten up the other breaking ball into more of a rifle slider so it’s (effective) to both right- and left-handed hitters.”


Second baseman Brandon Lowe and first-base coach Michael Johns were both at Thursday’s workout after missing several days with illness … Non-roster invitee Nathan Wiles, who went 8-3 between Montgomery and Durham last season, is expected to start Saturday’s spring opener against the Braves. Michael Gomez, Antonio Jimenez, Justin Sterner, Edwin Uceta, Zac Houston, Trevor Brigden, Enmanuel Mejia and Mason Montgomery are all expected to follow with one inning each, although changes are possible. Erasmo Ramirez, who is back in camp on a minor-league deal, is expected to start Sunday’s game.

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