Despite starting his major-league career with a Rays record 14-1/3 scoreless innings over three outings, RHP Yonny Chirnos has not officially earned his way into the rotation.
Instead, Chirinos is still considered part of the "Bullpen Day" assortment of long relievers.
Chirinos starts tonight against the Rangers, the third time he has drawn the assignment in the six "Bullpen Days" the Rays have had in their first 17 games.
And there is reason to believe that with another solid outing, Chirinos will graduate from the bullpen to become the fourth official member of the rotation.
"He's definitely put himself into that category where we need to be considering it," Rays manager Kevin Cash said last week in Chicago, where Chirinos blanked the White Sox for 5-1/3 innings.
The Rays have been impressed with what Chirinos has done, specifically by relying on a sinkerball that has exceptional movement, and how calmly and poised he has done it.
"He's been impressive, really impressive," Cash said. "Go back to the start vs. Boston (in the Red Sox's homer opener). With the outside influences, the cold, we didn't help him on a play (early, on a Kevin Kiermaier misplay). He kept his composure. He navigated through that lineup on 54 pitches through five innings. I don't know if any other (Rays) pitcher is capable of doing that. And he does it with a sinker that gets a lot of soft contact."
Chirinos, 24, signed with the Rays at age 18 out of Venezuela and worked his way up, earning the organization's top pitcher award for his 2017 work at Double-A Montgomery and Triple-A Durham, going a combined 13-5, 2.73. He is a quiet type, from humble origins, and deeply religious, always thanking God for the opportunity in interviews.(And why he points skyward as he jumps over the foul line on his way to the mound.)
One other note applicable to tonight: Yonny Chirinos is not related to Texas catcher Robinson Chirinos, though both are from Venezuela, and had never met or been on a field together before this series. And, yes, that is the same Robinson Chirinos who spent time with the Rays after being acquired with Chris Archer and three others from the Cubs in the Matt Garza deal.