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Ronaldo Hernandez shows Rays what’s to come

Rays Notes | Team's top catching prospect puts on a show in his first appearance of Spring 2.0 at Tropicana Field.
The Rays' Ronaldo Hernandez, pictured at the plate during an intrasquad game Monday in St. Petersburg.
The Rays' Ronaldo Hernandez, pictured at the plate during an intrasquad game Monday in St. Petersburg. [ CHRIS URSO | Times ]
Published Jul. 21, 2020|Updated Jul. 21, 2020

ST. PETERSBURG — Rays manager Kevin Cash hadn’t seen Ronaldo Hernandez during the first two-plus weeks of Spring 2.0. Hernandez was working with the Port Charlotte group, and Cash didn’t have the opportunity to watch the team’s top catching prospect hit or set up behind home plate.

Hernandez did both at Tropicana Field Monday in the Rays 7-1/2-inning intrasquad game.

Cash left impressed.

“It looks like he’s got the chance to be a pretty special player.” Cash said of Hernandez, a 22-year-old signed out of Colombia in 2014.

Related: Aaron Loup gives Rays a different look

Hernandez recorded an RBI double down the third-base line in his first at-bat and ripped a single in his second.

“I’m very appreciative of them allowing me to be up here,” Hernandez said via team translator Manny Navarro. “Just got to take advantage of the time here and enjoy it and just give them the best that I have while I’m here.”

Hernandez exhibited his arm and reaction speed from behind the plate when he threw out Dylan Cozens at second on a stolen base attempt to end the bottom of the seventh.

“Not to put comps on him or anything like that, but he does, he’s got that Wilson Ramos build,” Cash said, comparing Hernandez to the former Rays and current Mets All-Star. “It looks like he might generate that kind of power.”

Hernandez has not played above advanced Class A, but he is on the 40-man roster. As a result, Cash said, players like Hernandez will be in high demand given the roster rules of the shortened season. Monday was an opportunity for the Rays to evaluate the talent they have in reserve.

Hernandez will play in Tuesday’s game, as well, either as a backup catcher or a designated hitter.

For starters, Yarbrough is a starter

Ryan Yarbrough will start the second game of the season for the Rays.
Ryan Yarbrough will start the second game of the season for the Rays. [ CHRIS URSO | Times ]

Lefty Ryan Yarbrough accomplished one goal over the two spring trainings, earning a spot in the Rays’ rotation. And he’ll pitch the second game of the season, at that, after splitting time the last two years between starting and pitching behind an opener. “It’s something I’ve been continuing to work for,” Yarbrough said. “Obviously, still it’s a long season, so I’m going to continue to show and prove to them that I can do it long-term. It’s definitely how I want to start, but it’s more a matter how you finish, so we’ll we see how it keeps going.” Tuesday, Yarbrough tuned up for that Saturday outing by working five innings in an intrasquad game at the Trop, allowing five runs in a messy 29-pitch second inning, but not much after that, throwing 87 pitches over 4-1/3 total, with seven hits (plus two hit batters on curveballs) and four strikeouts. “It was nice to get some longer at-bats and see a lot of different hitters,” he said. “It was good. Got the pitch count kind of where I need it to be, got all the ups to be ready for the start of the season.”

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Moving parts

Yandy Diaz played first for the first time in Spring 2.0 on Monday, which Cash acknowledged was because Jose Martinez, who joined the team Saturday after a case of COVID-19, “is a tick behind.” Cash said Diaz will still play primarily at third base, but they wanted to get him reps at first for occasional use: “If he can help lengthen out our lineup going over there every once in a while, it’s a big plus.” ... Catcher Mike Zunino continued his impressive Spring 2.0, showing what Cash called his “special power” with a homer off Colin Poche that struck high on the batters’ eye beyond the centerfield fence. … Yoshi Tsutsugo hit leadoff the last two instrasquad games, but Cash said he “probably won’t” do so in the regular season. ... Outfielder/infielder Brian O’Grady homered, and Cash noted how impressed they are with his bat and defensive versatility. ... Mike Brosseau doubled off Poche, who has been his Spring 2.0 roommate.

Miscellany

Rays second baseman Brandon Lowe, left, talks with Yandy Diaz, right, during an intrasquad game Monday at Tropicana Field.
Rays second baseman Brandon Lowe, left, talks with Yandy Diaz, right, during an intrasquad game Monday at Tropicana Field. [ CHRIS URSO | Times ]

Blake Snell, Tyler Glasnow and Trevor Richards are slated to pitch in Tuesday’s intrasquad game, starting at 6 p.m., with TV coverage by Fox Sports Sun and radio coverage on raysbaseball.com. ... Fox Sports Sun has a season preview show, hosted by Tricia Whitaker, starting at 5:30 with several player interviews. ... Brandon Lowe was one of several players who wore a mask on the field and Lowe said with his style, one he could pull up when needed, “I don’t see why I would not” do so during the season. ... The Rays have to set their 30-man opening day roster by noon Thursday.

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