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Rays closing in on pitching plans for ALDS vs. Yankees

Rays notes | Decisions are complicated with four days off and then the potential for playing five straight days.
Ryan Yarbrough could be the Rays' fourth starter or work bulk innings behind an opener.
Ryan Yarbrough could be the Rays' fourth starter or work bulk innings behind an opener. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]
Published Oct. 2, 2020
Updated Oct. 3, 2020

ST. PETERSBURG — Rays officials were closing in on their pitching plans for the American League Division Series against the Yankees and should have an announcement Saturday.

“We’re going to talk through it the rest of today,” manager Kevin Cash said before a final workout at Tropicana Field and the 4½-hour flight to San Diego for the neutral-site series. “This gives us a good opportunity kind of for everybody to weigh in and also check how everybody’s feeling.”

With four days between their last game and Monday’s series opener in San Diego, and with the best-of-five series to be played on consecutive days, the decisions are somewhat complicated.

Other factors are whether the Rays will plan to use five starters or an opener/bulk-inning pitcher for one or two games, and how they staff and align their bullpen, which also will be impacted by potentially playing five straight days.

Blake Snell and Tyler Glasnow started the two Wild Card Series games against the Blue Jays, and pitched well, and could be used again in that order. Charlie Morton, who has the most postseason experience, has not pitched since Sept. 25. Ryan Yarbrough, who would be the fourth starter, or work bulk innings behind an opener, last worked Sept. 26, though he threw a couple innings in a simulated game Friday.

The Rays carried 13 pitchers for the best-of-three Wild Card Series and will add one and possibly two to the 28-man roster for this round, with decisions due by Monday morning. Rookie lefty starter Josh Fleming is among the possibilities, along with righty Trevor Richards.

“The depth is definitely going to be tested,” Cash said. “We’ll probably talk, countless conversations and hours, on how we’re going to do right by our pitching and making sure that we’re keeping them healthy, fresh, as much as possible. …. This is pretty unprecedented.”

Cash said the rest could be good for Morton, the 36-year-old who missed three-plus weeks with shoulder muscle inflammation, and has been inconsistent in five starts since.

“I think he’s going to be that much more fresher, (and) feel good,” Cash said. “I know he’s done some work to stay sharp. Once we set this up, then we’ll be able to decide where we slot Charlie.”

‘Very encouraged’ about Meadows

Rays rightfielder Austin Meadows, left, and infielder Wander Franco chat during practice Friday at Tropicana Field.
Rays rightfielder Austin Meadows, left, and infielder Wander Franco chat during practice Friday at Tropicana Field. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]

Outfielder Austin Meadows, sidelined since sustaining a Grade 2 left oblique strain on Sept. 17, continues to make progress and is slated to get some at-bats against live pitching Saturday when the Rays work out at Petco Park. “We didn’t want to push it (Friday), although I think if you asked him, he would say that he’d like to,” Cash said. “Then we’ll use our eyes. We don’t have the gauge of ramping him up through (rehab) games, so the best we’ve got is some kind of (simulated) game live at-bats. But I think we’re all very encouraged where Austin is right now.”

No coronavirus concern from Trump case

Rays pitcher Sean Gilmartin goes to throw a ball during practice Friday at Tropicana Field.
Rays pitcher Sean Gilmartin goes to throw a ball during practice Friday at Tropicana Field. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]

President Donald Trump’s positive test for COVID-19 has raised questions about the possibility of infections spreading to members of his staff and their families. That is not a concern for lefty reliever Sean Gilmartin, who is married to Trump press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, team officials said. Gilmartin had been in the team’s Major League Baseball-mandated quarantine since Sept. 22 at the Renaissance Vinoy hotel in St. Petersburg, allowed to leave only to go to the Trop. That stay includes the time from when he was designated for assignment on Monday, cleared waivers and was re-added to the 40-player postseason pool on Thursday. He is unlikely to be on the active roster but could be added if a pitcher is injured. McEnany, who is from Tampa, has been on the job in Washington.

Miscellany

Game 1 starts at 8:07 p.m. (Eastern time) Monday; additional start times have not been set. … The Rays plan workouts for Saturday and Sunday at Petco Park, where they played three games last year. … Yarbrough, Fleming, Aaron Slegers and rookie Shane McClanahan threw in Friday’s simulated game. … Infield prospect Wander Franco put on a show during batting practice, homering from both sides of the plate, and with some distance. … As the higher seed, the Rays will be the home team for Games 1, 2 and 5 and will have use of the home clubhouse for the full series. … Cash said they were “excited” to get to San Diego and settle into the bubble-style resort hotel they share with the Yankees and MLB officials.