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Kevin Cash’s latest prediction: Pirates’ Derek Shelton will be a star

Rays journal: Rays enjoy first game against former coach. Ryan Yarbrough is effective. Austin Meadows homers.
Pittsburgh Pirates' Derek Shelton during a spring training baseball workout Feb. 17 in Bradenton.
Pittsburgh Pirates' Derek Shelton during a spring training baseball workout Feb. 17 in Bradenton. [ FRANK FRANKLIN II | AP ]
Published Mar. 5, 2020
Updated Mar. 6, 2020

PORT CHARLOTTE — Kevin Cash went back to St. Petersburg on Wednesday night to see his son J.D.’s youth league game, and former Rays/current Pirates pitcher Chris Archer was there, supporting a neighbor’s kid.

They talked about a few things, including how well former Rays hitting coach Derek Shelton was making the transition to managing the Pirates.

Then Cash got his own look for the first time during Thursday’s 2-1 win.

Related: John Romano on challenge for Rays of fitting together the pieces

“He’ll be really good," Cash said. “Really, really good. He’s very organized. His attention to detail was really good. … He’s going to be a star."

Shelton, who was fired by Cash’s Rays in September 2016, spent one year on the Blue Jays’ staff and two as the Twins’ bench coach (working last year under another former Ray, Rocco Baldelli) before getting his first big-league managing job.

So far, Shelton said the gig has “been great," joining new general manager Ben Cherington in taking over a team that had four straight losing seasons.

He gives a lot of credit to Cash and Baldelli for helping him prepare for the new assignment, and is also willing to poke a little fun, noting:

• The Pirates wouldn’t bother with the four-man outfield Thursday because “I’m managing against the master of trickery over there."

• Both like to have fun, “but Kevin is meaner than Rocco. Rocco’s got that nice guy; Kevin’s got a little bit of that meanness to him."

• Wary of retaliation at what will be a celebratory season opener at the Trop, “I’m not doing anything to Kevin Cash. I’m just putting that out there. … Nothing but positive things about him."

Yarbrough aggressive, effective

Ryan Yarbrough was effective once again Thursday, but was just as pleased that he was also efficient. Yarbrough became the first Rays starter to go three innings this spring. The left-hander had previously gone one inning and two innings without giving up an earned run, but felt like he was not being aggressive enough. “I felt I was nibbling a lot last time," Yarbrough said. “So that was kind of my goal today, to be really aggressive. I was happy about that … attacking hitters the right way. So definitely some good things to take away."

Yarbrough split time last season between a conventional starter role and a bulk guy following an opener. The Rays have not yet said whether they will use openers in 2020, but Yarbrough is clearly pushing for a normal spot in the rotation. “That’s what I’m trying to do," he said. “Prove to them that that’s something I can do after last year. It’s just a day-by-day thing."

Game details: Rays 2, Pirates 1

The Rays (8-4-2) only got two hits but they made the most of them. Austin Meadows crushed the first pitch in the bottom of the first for a home run, and Nate Lowe added an RBI single in the sixth for the game winner … Meadows had started the spring 1-for-17 with eight strikeouts before the homer, but having established himself with an All-Star season in 2019, he is able to take his slow start in stride. “When you’re trying to compete for a spot, it’s different. You’re getting at-bats every day," he said. “Today was the first back-to-back days I’ve had. The consistency in back-to-back days made me feel a little bit better." … Manuel Margot, who has split his time between all three outfield positions, made a diving catch on a line drive in centerfield … Ryan Sherriff got his second save of the spring with a perfect ninth. “He’s looking good," Cash said. “There’s a handful — Ryan Sherriff, John Curtiss, (Ryan) Thompson — those guys have looked really good."

Miscellany

Blake Snell played catch for a third straight day Thursday, with plans to further test his previously sore left elbow in a bullpen session Friday. If all goes well he could return to the rotation Monday at Dunedin. … A first, but not a deep, cut seems likely this weekend. … As part of increased coronavirus precautions, the league is sending doctors to meet with each team and discuss best practices. … Yoshi Tsutsugo remains on the home-game only schedule, slated to work out at the complex Friday, then play third in the Port Charlotte half of Saturday’s split-squad game. … Ex-Ray Sergio Romo is among the Twins’ scheduled Friday relievers.