Rays Journal: Good talks and tough conversations, Jonny on the spot, more

The Rays put two rookies on the roster.
 Ryan Yarbrough is one of the young starters who won a multi-inning relief job. [Times files]
Ryan Yarbrough is one of the young starters who won a multi-inning relief job. [Times files]
Published March 25, 2018

PORT CHARLOTTE – As difficult as it was to inform veterans such as Dan Jennings and Daniel Hudson they weren't going to make the team, manager Kevin Cash had the chance on a busy Sunday to tell RHP Yonny Chirinos and LHP Ryan Yarbrough they made their first major-league rosters.

"That's probably the highlight, the best conversations you can have," Cash said. "They both were extremely excited to say the least."

Yarbrough's parents had already planned to be at the game, so he quickly called them with the news before first pitch, as well as his girlfriend, who started crying.

"I don't think it really has set in yet," said Yarbrough, who grew up in Lakeland and came to Rays games as a kid. "I feel like probably when I get to the Trop and see everybody there, it will really set in. But it's incredible. Can't stop smiling to be honest."

Chirinos quickly called his family in Venezuela, Cash noting "you couldn't knock the smile off his face."

The Rays picked Chirinos and Yarbrough, who both pitched well as starters at Triple A last season, plus RHP Andrew Kittredge, who debuted last year and had what Cash called "a great spring," over RHP Austin Pruitt, who pitched in 30 games last season as a rookie.

"Pruitt's going to play a huge part for us, no doubt, but we felt with the way those guys pitched, Yarbrough and Chirinos both coming off starter innings, starter workload, that's going to provide some coverage for us," Cash said. "And Kittredge, he just a had a great spring. He's really good."

In telling Jennings and Hudson they weren't going to make the team, Cash said  "we just felt the best eight guys we are breaking camp with in the bullpen are the ones we picked."

Jonny on the spot

Told he won't make the Rays' opening day roster after an impressive spring of eight scoreless outings, veteran LHP Jonny Venters plans to keep working to get back to the majors for the first time since 2012 after repeated elbow injuries. "I'm kind of just pitching and seeing what happens," he said. "Like I said at the beginning, I was grateful just to be here and have the opportunity to pitch in big-league camp and be in this clubhouse, and I'm still grateful for that. I'm happy with the way I threw the ball in this camp. My arm feels good. So I'm just going to pitch and whatever happens, happens." Venters appears headed to Triple A unless another team inquires with the promise of a big-league job.

Game report

Two of the unheralded minor-league prospects acquired this spring, INF Jermaine Palacios (from Minnesota for Jake Odorizzi) and INF Tristan Gray (from Pittsburgh for Corey Dickerson) homered as the Rays beat a squad of mostly Yankees minor-leaguers 11-1. … Top 2016 draft pick Josh Lowe also homered, as did big-leaguers Carlos Gomez and Daniel Robertson. … The Rays finished 5-9 in Port Charlotte, with a 14-15-1 record overall.

Orestes on deck

The Rays are staging a series of community events leading up to Thursday's opener featuring Orestes Destrade, the pre- and postgame TV analyst and team outreach director. Monday he'll be at the Lightning game, with ex-Rays Toby Hall and Roberto Hernandez for pregame activities on Thunder Alley starting at 6; Tuesday hosting the "Big-O Happy Hour" (and maybe picking up the tab?) around 4 at Park & Rec in downtown St. Petersburg; and Friday leading an Ybor City takeover starting at noon at the visitors center.

Dugout distraction of the day 

For reasons no one wanted to share beyond suggesting a resemblance, the Rays had a copy of an old photo of actor/comedian Larry David in the dugout in homage to Kevin Ferris, one of their front office analytics aces.


* RHP Chris Archer, struck on the right forearm by a ball Friday, said he played catch Sunday with "no restrictions" and doesn't see Monday's bullpen session at the Trop as any kind of test of his readiness to start Thursday: "Not at all – 100 percent normal."

* Sunday's attendance of 7,985 was a Rays record during 10 springs in Port Charlotte.

* Cash said was excited to hear longtime coach/current special assistant Tom Foley was chosen to throw out the first pitch at Thursday's opener. "He'll throw a strike," Cash said. "It'll hurt, but he'll throw a strike."