CLEVELAND — Don’t worry about making another call, at least for now, to free agent Dallas Keuchel, or ringing up old buddy James Shields.
Hold off on making any trade offers for Madison Bumgarner, Marcus Stroman, Noah Syndergaard or any of the other veteran starters soon to be available, operators standing by.
Ryan Yarbrough showed up in Cleveland to reclaim a spot in the Rays’ short-staffed pitching rotation and showed them, on Thursday anyway, he could be the arm they need to get through at least the next six weeks, and potentially beyond.
A solid career-high 7⅓ innings on the mound, and four homers from his mates, produced a 7-2 win over the struggling Indians.
The encouragement Yarbrough provided to a staff missing injured Tyler Glasnow and facing a rugged stretch with only two days off until the All-Star break might have been more significant.
“It was great to see Yarbs come back from the work that he put in in (Triple-A) Durham to get back up here,’’ manager Kevin Cash said. “We all knew it was just a matter of time, and (he was) just impressive.
“He was outstanding. … He’s a guy we feel confident can slot in and provide a big lift going forward.’’
Yarbrough looked a lot like he did last year when, as a rookie and often pitching behind an opener, he won 16 games and posted a solid 3.91 ERA.
Which is to say he didn’t look anything like he did earlier this season when, after a disjointed spring, he struggled through most of five appearances, compiling an ERA near four digits and was sent to Triple A following a rough April 24 outing.
The difference Thursday was that he mixed his pitches, worked quickly and he got outs, 16 of the first 17 Indians, including 12 straight in one stretch.
“He got back in the zone and attacked a little bit more,’’ Cash said. “Last time when we saw him, he was just off the edges here and there, and putting himself in some bad counts.
“Same thought process, same pitching sequences but just committed more to the strike zone.’’
He had one spate of trouble in the sixth, loading the bases on singles and a two-out walk, but just as reliever Chaz Roe started warming, Yarbrough got out of it.
He ended up working into the eighth, throwing 99 pitches, and matched Yonny Chirinos’ 7⅓ innings in Baltimore as the longest start by a Ray this season. Yarbrough allowed four hits and one walk, and struck out four.
“We couldn’t have asked for anything more from him tonight,’’ said Tommy Pham, who homered in the first, along with Avisail Garcia, both going deep for the second straight game. “We needed him to provide some innings because our bullpen has been used quite a bit, and he did just that. He saved us for this series because we needed to rest some guys.’’
Willy Adames, who was a triple shy of the cycle, homered in the second as the Rays grabbed a 3-0 lead on their way to improving to 29-18, a season-high-matching 11 games over .500. Kevin Kiermaier, who also homered Wednesday, provided a three-run inside-the-park homer in the sixth with a liner that Indians outfielders Leonys Martin and Gaither High product Oscar Mercado collided on in pursuit.
When the Rays sent Yarbrough down, they made it clear he was still very much in their plans but there wouldn’t be much opportunity, given an abundance of off-days. They wanted him to pitch regularly and get straightened out so when they needed him, he would be ready.
“They were honest with me, which I appreciated,’’ he said. “Just get down there, get your feet back under you, build up again, get your rhythm and timing down. So I definitely used it to my advantage down there.’’
The good work showed up with a 2-0, 2.14 mark in four games, and so did a solid work ethic. When it came time to add another pitcher, he was the obvious choice.
“We tried to communicate as much as possible about our thought process that he would be back here,” Cash said. “We had to find that right scenario. We’ve kind of run out of off-days here for a period of time.’’
Yarbrough welcomed the second chance and felt he took advantage of it, making sure to note the work of new catcher Erik Kratz, the defense behind him and the comfort and advantage of the early lead.
“It’s good, especially because I felt like I was throwing pretty well down there and really just trying to build off it every outing,’’ he said. “And to kind of have this continue the trend of really building off what was working well and examine what wasn’t, and get after it in the bullpen in a couple days.’’
And a couple of days after that, he’ll get another chance to show that he can do what they need.
Contact Marc Topkin at [email protected]. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.