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Rays expect Ryan Yarbrough, Mike Zunino back soon; Chaz Roe’s season over

Notebook | The veteran reliever is shut down after feeling something amiss in his elbow when throwing his trademark slider.
Rays reliever Chaz Roe pitches against the Yankees at Tropicana Field on Friday, Aug. 7, 2020.
Rays reliever Chaz Roe pitches against the Yankees at Tropicana Field on Friday, Aug. 7, 2020. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]
Published Aug. 29, 2020
Updated Aug. 30, 2020

The Rays are optimistic that starter Ryan Yarbrough will be back after 10 days on the injured list to rest a sore groin and hopeful that catcher Mike Zunino won’t be out much longer than that by preempting damage with a left oblique strain.

But veteran reliever Chaz Roe’s season ended, somewhat unexpectedly, Saturday due to further issues with his sore right elbow.

Roe had been playing catch on flat ground in working his way back since being idled after an Aug. 19 appearance, but when he tried throwing his trademark slider Friday, he felt something wrong.

Further imaging did not show anything that indicated surgery would be required, but it was enough to shut him down for the rest of the season and shift him to the 45-day injured list.

“He was progressing well,” manager Kevin Cash said from Miami before the game against the Marlins. “He really wasn’t feeling it when he threw the fastball, but when he went to kind of crank on a breaking ball … he felt it and shut it down right there, and didn’t like how it felt.”

Roe, 33, is one of the team’s top weapons against right-handed hitters, and also one of the few relievers with much experience on the staff. He is one of 11 Rays pitchers overall currently sidelined, including one of seven members of the projected opening-day bullpen to be sidelined and the fourth of that group for the season. He was 2-0, 2.89 with a save in 10 appearances this season.

“It’s tough and disappointing, use both of those words,” Cash said. “It’s very unfortunate because Chaz has been a staple in our bullpen for three years now, and he’s been able to get big outs time after time. So he’s going to be missed, just like a lot of the other guys that are out for the season. But hopefully with this rest we’ll get him in a healthier spot moving forward into next season.”

Yarbrough took a shutout into the seventh inning Friday before leaving three batters later when feeling tightness over several pitches.

Because he has dealt with and managed the issue previously, Cash said they are “optimistic” that with treatment, he won’t be out long, missing just one start. And they plan to have him continue throwing so if the groin feels better, he will be ready to go back into the rotation when eligible Sept. 8 or shortly thereafter.

“Given the workload that we’re putting on him and the way he’s throwing the ball, we need to do everything we can to keep him healthy,” Cash said. “Hopefully it’s a one-start thing.’'

The Rays are not as sure about Zunino, who felt “a little bit” of discomfort during batting practice Friday and proactively informed the athletic training staff.

“Obliques are tricky,” Cash said. “We’re going to shut him down and just see, keep our fingers crossed that we caught it early enough that he won’t have an extended time.”

Zunino missed the first three weeks in 2018 with Seattle due to the same injury, but he said this one “felt nothing like that,” adding to his optimism of returning relatively soon, certainly in time for the playoffs. Though hitting only .133 with four home runs, nine RBIs and a .619 OPS, Zunino said he was starting to feel better at and behind the plate, where he had a majors-most five passed balls.

With Zunino out, lefty-hitting Michael Perez will get more playing time, though Cash said they also will use Kevan Smith, who was re-added to the roster Saturday. Smith started the season as the team’s third catcher, was designated for assignment Aug. 9, cleared waivers and accepted an outright assignment to stay, working out at the Port Charlotte camp. He took the 40-man spot opened by Roe’s shift to the 45-day injured list.

More pitching updates

Top starter Charlie Morton (shoulder) will throw a bullpen session Sunday in Miami and if all goes well, the right-hander is expected to rejoin the rotation in New York on Tuesday or Wednesday. … High-leverage reliever Nick Anderson (forearm) threw a 15-pitch bullpen session in Port Charlotte, with plans to throw live batting practice Monday and if all goes well, rejoin the team Friday. … Oliver Drake (biceps) has been playing catch and is slated for his first bullpen session Tuesday. … Jalen Beeks, who tore his ulnar collateral ligament Tuesday, will have Tommy John surgery Wednesday, performed by Dr. Keith Meister in Texas. Beeks likely will be out until 2022.

Trade deadline report

With a 4 p.m. Monday trade deadline looming, the Rays already have made two deals, acquiring lefty reliever Cody Reed from the Reds and outfielder Brett Phillips from the Royals. Reed is expected to join the team first, likely in New York, as the club was down to 13 active pitchers. Team officials are continuing to explore a number of other possibilities to add depth, but that does not include talks about Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez, as has been reported.

Miscellany

The Rays have won 17 of past 20. … Infielder/outfielder Brian O’Grady was activated from the taxi squad to take the other open spot on the 28-man active roster. … Both teams wore their No. 42 Jackie Robinson Day jerseys again Saturday and plan to do so Sunday. … Centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier played for the first time after leaving Wednesday’s game with back spasms. He had an RBI single. … Blake Snell starts Sunday, saying he hopes to work seven or eight innings coming off a season-high 5⅔ in his previous outing. … With a doubleheader set for Sept. 17 in Baltimore to make up for Thursday’s postponed game, the start time of the Sept. 16 home game against Washington has been moved to 1:10 p.m. from 3:10.