The door finally is open again for Yonny Chirinos in Rays’ rotation

Coming off surgery, the right-hander throws two innings and the Rays flash some power but fall to the Orioles.
Yonny Chirinos threw a total of 18 innings in the Major Leagues from 2020-22 but is now a contender for the rotation after Tyler Glasnow's oblique injury.
Yonny Chirinos threw a total of 18 innings in the Major Leagues from 2020-22 but is now a contender for the rotation after Tyler Glasnow's oblique injury. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]
Published March 5|Updated March 5

ST. PETERSBURG — The hard part is over. The time, the sweat, the heartache is behind him.

Now, after nearly three years of missed moments, Yonny Chirinos is ready to resume a career that once was full of promise.

The Rays right-hander made his first start of the spring on Sunday in a 5-2 loss to the Orioles, retiring five of the last six batters he faced after taking a minute or two to find his groove.

“I thought Yonny looked good, I was glad to see him get through that (first) inning,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “He had a lot of (movement), a lot of sink going. You could tell it kind of took a moment to harness it in the zone, but once he got it his velocity and the splits he’s throwing looked really, really good.”

His role coming into camp was a little uncertain, but Chirinos, 29, now has a potential pathway to the rotation with Tyler Glasnow’s oblique injury expected to keep him out of games for at least the first month of the regular season.

“I try not to think about it, because I don’t have control over that,” Chirinos said via translator Manny Navarro. “I just have control over what I can do for the team. I just want to be ready every time I have to go out to the mound.

“I feel ready, and I think my body is responding the way that it’s supposed to be responding. It feels super good. Hopefully, it stays that way.”

Get out the tape measure

For a team that finished 25th in the majors in home runs last season, the Rays are flexing their muscles early this spring. Jose Siri and Randy Arozarena both hit home runs on Sunday, giving the Rays 14 bombs in the first nine games. Opponents have hit only six homers against the Rays. “I know there was a lot of talk about it in the offseason and rightfully so. Totally fair,” Cash said. “But we’ve got a lot of confidence in the guys in this clubhouse to hit the ball out of the ballpark and score more runs than we did last year.” Arozarena’s home run, his second of the spring, went 429 feet with an exit velocity of 113.3 mph. That was harder than every ball he hit last year, except for one.

Pitch clock blues

Pitch clock violations resulted in two strikeouts (Wander Franco and Baltimore’s Nomar Mazara) and one walk (with Chirinos on the mound) as players continue to adjust to exactly how quickly the clock is reset. Rays reliever Ryan Thompson threw one shutout inning in seven pitches in his spring debut, but that included a four-pitch walk that might have been helped along by his own concerns about the clock. “I wouldn’t say it was pitch clock-related, I was just a little bit too fast with my body,” Thompson said. “Perhaps maybe my internal clock was going, so that sped up my delivery. I recognized it in the moment but still didn’t fix it. That’s something I’m looking forward to cleaning up the next time.”

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Off to see the world

The clubhouse is about to get thinned out with a dozen Rays players heading to the World Baseball Classic this week. Wander Franco and Francisco Mejia (Dominican Republic), Arozarena and Isaac Paredes (Mexico), Christian Bethancourt (Panama), Harold Ramirez (Colombia) and Jason Adam (United States) are among the bigger names heading to games in Miami and Arizona. Bench coach Rodney Linares also is leaving to be the manager of the Dominican Republic, along with analytics coach Jonathan Erlichman who will assist him. “Excited for all those guys. Wished them all well,” Cash said. “They all said they’d see me in two weeks, so that means they all plan on getting to the final game.”

Times staff writer Marc Topkin contributed to this report.

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