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Could Rays close the door on opener strategy?

Yonny Chirinos and Ryan Yarbrough did well enough that the Rays could go back to using five traditional starters.
Yonny Chirinos may join the Rays' rotation full time next season, possibly signaling an end to consistent use of the opener. [DIRK SHADD  |  Times]
Yonny Chirinos may join the Rays' rotation full time next season, possibly signaling an end to consistent use of the opener. [DIRK SHADD | Times]
Published Dec. 10, 2019
Updated Dec. 10, 2019

SAN DIEGO — There is a lot the Rays still have to sort out and decide on for the 2020 season.

And one possibility is putting Yonny Chirinos and Ryan Yarbrough in the rotation as full-time starters and closing the door on using the opener on a scheduled basis.

“We certainly won’t rule anything out on Dec. 10," manager Kevin Cash said. “They have done so well. They’ve challenged a lot of the thoughts. And they’ve benefited from it. They’ve also probably earned some opportunity to go out there and take the ball. We will just see what’s best for the makeup of our club and how we’re going to win the most games."

Assuming all are healthy, the top three spots in the rotation are set with Blake Snell, Tyler Glasnow and veteran Charlie Morton, whose workload will be discussed after career-high 2019 usage.

Related: Is something amiss with Rays’ trade of Tommy Pham?

“I think Yonny and Yarbs both have to be in that conversation,” Cash said. “They’ve done special things for one- and two-year players, pitchers. They’ve been pretty remarkable for us."

Among other topics Cash discussed during his stint in the winter meetings interview room:

On giving catcher Mike Zunino another chance after his rough 2019: “We’re betting on Z to bounce back. … You look at his offensive seasons in the past, he’s certainly capable of bouncing back. There’s not a guy in our clubhouse that can generate as much power as he can."

On the loss of Tommy Pham in trade to San Diego: “We’re going to miss Tommy Pham. There’s no denying that. When we acquired Tommy (on July 31, 2018), that was right about the time stuff started to change. We started to have a little bit more of a presence in the lineup and the box. Tommy was a big part of that."

On giving two-way player Brendan McKay more at-bats: “I think we owe it to Brendan, let’s let him hit. There was a reason he was the best collegiate hitter in baseball the year he was drafted, and the little bit he has hit doesn’t prove anything good or bad. Let’s get him go get some reps and get ABs, and if we need him on the mound in the big leagues, we know we’ve got a really good big-league pitcher.”

Strasburg stays with Nats

The accelerated and expensive pace of the offseason continued Monday with Stephen Strasburg agreeing to a — for now — record $245 million, seven-year deal to stay with the Nationals. Gerrit Cole, the top free-agent pitcher, is reportedly ready to act quickly as well, with the Yankees, Angels and Dodgers among the teams considered most active for what could surpass $300 million. … Among other chatter, the Red Sox are said to be trying to trade centerfielder Jackie Bradley Jr., the Brewers joining the Reds and Phillies in pursuit of shortstop Didi Gregorius.

Number of the day

Manager Kevin Cash's stock is on the rise ... in one completely superficial ranking. [DIRK SHADD | Tampa Bay Times]

4

Ranking of Tampa Bay’s Kevin Cash in Craig Calcaterra’s annual list of “Most Handsome Managers,” up from 9 last year. Ex- Ray Rocco Baldelli, the Twins manager, was No. 1.

Miscellany

The Rays are among many teams that have expressed interest in Japanese outfielders Shogo Akiyama (a free agent) and Yoshitomo Tsutsugo (who was posted and has to sign by Dec. 19). … Reps for former Rays standout Ben Zobrist say he’s still deciding whether to play in 2020, probably “50-50” as of now, as his priority is a family situation following his split last year with his wife. … ESPN set its Sunday Night Baseball schedule for the first half of the season and other select dates, and the Rays are once again not included. Also missing: the World Series champ Nationals. Of the 16 dates announced, the Yankees and Red Sox appear five times each. … Rays GM Erik Neander said Monday afternoon that they were just getting started, meeting with teams and agents but “we’re usually ready to act and more than happy to act quickly if it’s there." … The Rays were presented with the Baseball America Organization of the Year award.

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