ST. PETERSBURG — Pitcher Yonny Chirinos joined the Rays on the field Sunday for the first time after a mild case of COVID-19 but despite missing more than two weeks of workouts, he is expected to be ready to start the season Friday.
“There was about a week there where I had symptoms, nothing too bad,” Chirinos of Venezuela said via team translator Manny Navarro. “I’ve been working at home, and I feel good. I think I’ve prepared myself enough to be ready to go into a game if I have to.”
Chirinos, who quarantined at his St. Petersburg home, said he was able to do enough work — running, lifting weights and throwing — to stay in shape.
Manager Kevin Cash said from what the staff has heard and seen, Chirinos, despite the missed gamelike innings, will be good to go, likely facing Atlanta on July 27 or 28.
“He’ll be ready. He’s worked really hard in being absent from us,” Cash said. “We envision Yonny, if all goes well, he’ll be able to slot somewhere in the back end of our rotation. … He’ll be able to do a good job of giving us pretty good length. … He’ll be okay.”
Chirinos, who had been among the players working out informally three times a week at Tropicana Field starting in late May, said he tested positive in late June, just before the official Spring 2.0 intake testing. He doesn’t know how he got exposed: “I’ve spent every single day thinking about it.”
Chirinos is the fourth Ray known to have tested positive. Pitcher Tyler Glasnow returned Tuesday and, like Chirinos, kept working out through his quarantine period and is expected to be ready to start the season. First baseman/DH Jose Martinez, who also was in the early group at the Trop, returned Saturday, hoping to be ready for Friday.
The fourth is outfielder Austin Meadows, who took part in the initial July 3 workout but has yet to return and was placed on the injured list. Outfielder Randy Arozarena’s status remains unclear as he has not yet been on the field with the group; lefty pitcher Brendan McKay was last seen on the field onn March 6.
Lefty Ryan Yarbrough will follow opening-day starter Charlie Morton and face Toronto on Saturday, with Sunday officially TBD for now, based on who is built up to handle the most innings. One option is lefty Blake Snell, pending how and how much he pitches in Tuesday’s intrasquad game (6 p.m., Fox Sports Sun). “Well see where he gets,” Cash said. Glasnow and Chirinos are expected to fill out the rotation.
The Rays don’t seem to have immediate plans to replace catcher Chris Herrmann and outfielder Ryan LaMarre, who both used opt outs in their minor-league contracts to become free agents. Catching seems the bigger concern, as the Rays have only three experienced catchers in their 60-player pool: Mike Zunino, Michael Perez and (nonroster) Kevan Smith, plus prospect Ronaldo Hernandez, who has not played above Class A. “The catching position is a hot commodity right now,” Cash said. “I think we’ll constantly look for what’s out there, what’s available, and trust that our front office will do everything they can to put the organization with as much depth as possible.”
Quote of the day
“It was pretty raucous in there.”
— Rays pitcher Charlie Morton, on pitching Sunday with the piped-in crowd noise
Martinez said he felt good in taking ground balls and swings for the first time, but he probably won’t know until after Wednesday’s workouts whether he will be ready for Friday, when he’d likely start versus Jays lefty Hyun-jin Ryu. Martinez said a bigger concern than timing is agility and stamina, that he didn’t want to hurt the team, for example, if he couldn’t run the bases well. … Cash said they spent time going over “communication stuff, signs and everything” and some bunt and first-and-third plays before the workout was opened to the media. … Per the still-being-adjusted Trop scoreboard, Hunter Renfroe had an exit velocity of 106.5 mph on a single off Morton in the 3½ inning intrasquad game. … The Rays will play longer intrasquad games the next three days. ... Cash said he hadn’t yet seen the video of sore-kneed good buddy Terry Francona, the Indians manager, doing toe taps with his players rather than high-fives after Saturday’s exhibition win: “Was he on one leg. And he didn’t fall?”