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New Yonny Chirinos injury clouds 2022 pitching plans for Rays

Rays Tales | A fractured elbow further delays the right-hander’s return from Tommy John surgery. Plus, a new role for Ozzie Timmons, stadium talk, rumblings.
Rays pitcher Yonny Chirinos fractured his elbow while throwing live batting practice in late September and underwent surgery Sept. 30 to have a screw installed.
Rays pitcher Yonny Chirinos fractured his elbow while throwing live batting practice in late September and underwent surgery Sept. 30 to have a screw installed. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published Oct. 22
Updated Oct. 23

Despite the way the playoffs ended, the Rays felt pretty good about their starting pitching plan going into next season.

But they’re going to have one less option than planned, at least for the first month or two, and potentially longer.

Yonny Chirinos, 13 months into his rehab from Tommy John surgery, fractured his elbow while throwing live batting practice in late September. He underwent surgery Sept. 30 to have a screw installed, though with reassurance that his repaired ulnar collateral ligament was not damaged.

The best-case scenario is for Chirinos, with no other issues or setbacks, to resume playing catch during spring training, make it to the mound before camp breaks and be ready for game action in a rehab assignment in late April or May as he works his way back.

But fractures of the medial epicondyle, a bone on the inside of the elbow connected to the UCL, can be tricky.

Brent Honeywell had one in June 2019 as he was dealing with other setbacks following his February 2018 Tommy John surgery. Eventually, after two other arthroscopic procedures and further complications, he made it back to game action this spring. Oakland pitcher Jarrod Parker had one in May 2015, then fractured it again 10 months later and was forced to retire at age 29. Others are in between.

Though the Rays were counting on Chirinos — who was 14-10 with a 3.65 ERA in 47 games (28 starts) over parts of three seasons — for 2022, they would appear to have ample depth, especially if he isn’t delayed long.

Shane McClanahan, Drew Rasmussen and Luis Patino seem like sure things for the rotation, with Shane Baz, who made an impressive September debut, another likely piece.

Lefty Ryan Yarbrough, assuming he’s back with a projected $4.4 million arbitration salary, will be in the mix as a starter or for bulk innings behind an opener, as well as Josh Fleming, Dietrich Enns and possibly Honeywell. Jalen Beeks, recovered from his September 2020 Tommy John surgery, could be another option early in the season if not at the start.

It also wouldn’t be a surprise for the Rays to sign another veteran pitcher for a Michael Wacha-type role — or maybe even bring back Wacha — to provide another experienced option, in addition to whatever surprises emerge from the depth they usually stockpile.

Manfred on Rays’ stadium situation

Calling Oakland’s situation “critical,” commissioner Rob Manfred said it is “kind of beyond debate at this point” that the Rays also need a new stadium. Speaking at the recent CAA World Congress of Sports, Manfred — who often refers to the Tampa Bay market as “Tampa” — said of the Rays’ situation: “Whatever you want to say about Tampa, it’s playable for right now and they have a lease that goes through 2027. Oakland’s in a critical situation. We need to find a way to get new ballparks built in those two cities or — particularly in the case of Oakland, we’ve had to open up the opportunity to explore other locations just because it’s dragged on so long. Frankly, in some ways we’re not sure we see a path to success in terms of getting something built in Oakland. (Relocation) is a possibility in Oakland. They’ve been talking to Las Vegas, it’s gotten a lot of publicity, but there are options in terms of relocation in addition to Las Vegas.” … Rays officials are focused on the season-sharing plan with Montreal as the solution, which team president Matt Silverman said last month Major League Baseball believes in “fully.” It seems possible the Rays will seek to have that option at least discussed as part of the negotiations on a new labor agreement between owners and players, since both sides may have some concerns. The current labor deal expires Dec. 1, with a lockout possible if there is no deal by then. … Should be an interesting scene when Brian Auld, the other team president, addresses the Rays’ future and the Montreal plan with the typically feisty Tiger Bay Club audience Nov. 12 in Tampa.

Rays rumblings

Rays leftfielder Randy Arozarena (56) shares a moment with first base coach Ozzie Timmons (40) after hitting a double during a game against the Detroit Tigers in September at Tropicana Field.
Rays leftfielder Randy Arozarena (56) shares a moment with first base coach Ozzie Timmons (40) after hitting a double during a game against the Detroit Tigers in September at Tropicana Field. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]

A slight shuffle to the coaching staff is being finalized, with Ozzie Timmons shifting off first base to focus solely on assistant hitting-coach duties and Chris Prieto moving up from minor-league coordinator to take over as the first-base, outfield and baserunning coach. Prieto, 49, spent six years as a Mariners coach before joining the Rays in 2020. … Baseball development vice president Peter Bendix’s name came up in media speculation for the Mets’ head of baseball operations opening; wonder if he eventually could end up with a general manager title with the Rays given Erik Neander’s September contract extension and title change to president of baseball operations. … Minor-league hitting coordinator Greg Brown has drawn interest from several teams about big-league jobs. … You could posit it would’ve been a better look for the Rays if the Red Sox had won the World Series, thus Tampa Bay would’ve gotten knocked out by the champs. On the other hand, the Rays open next season at Boston and would have had to endure watching their rivals unveil the banner and get their rings. … Baz was chosen the Rays minor-league player of the year by Baseball America. … Reliever Cody Reed was inducted into the Athletic Hall of Fame at Northwest Mississippi Community College, where he pitched two years. … With a nod to Shohei Ohtani, Angels and former Rays manager Joe Maddon is selling a Japanese version of the “Try Not to Suck” T-shirt, with proceeds going to his Respect 90 Foundation; see MaddonArt.com. … Reliever J.P. Feyereisen raised $5,000 for the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation, and the Rays matched it for a $10,000 donation.

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