Josh Fleming wins rotation spot with the Rays

The left-hander beats out Yonny Chirinos and will fill the spot left open by the injured Tyler Glasnow.
Josh Fleming "competes really, really well," manager Kevin Cash says, and he edged out Yonny Chirinos for Tyler Glasnow's spot in the rotation.
Josh Fleming "competes really, really well," manager Kevin Cash says, and he edged out Yonny Chirinos for Tyler Glasnow's spot in the rotation. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]
Published March 26

LAKELAND — Josh Fleming will not make his scheduled final spring training start Monday. Nothing is wrong with the left-hander. In fact, it’s great news for him.

With a spot open because of Tyler Glasnow’s oblique injury, Fleming won the competition to take his place in the rotation.

The Rays optioned Yonny Chirinos to Triple-A Durham before Sunday afternoon’s game against the Tigers at Joker Marchant Stadium. They had also looked at Luis Patino for this spot, but optioned him Saturday.

“Look, when Glas got hurt, we kind of expressed to all of them we had what we thought (were) three good options, good candidates,” manager Kevin Cash said. “They all did some good things this spring. Obviously Luis was out of the mix (Saturday). And then Yonny and Josh, it was a really tough decision. Fleming, I think, is very deserving of it.”

Chirinos made just two appearances last season, throwing a total of seven innings after missing all of the 2021 season rehabbing from Tommy John. He then fractured his right elbow.

“Yonny, on the flip side, you could make the case that he’s also deserving,” Cash said. “He put together a tremendous spring. We’re thrilled with (the fact) that, No. 1, he’s a healthy pitcher. He got (built up) to five innings, which he hasn’t done in quite some time. ...

“But Yonny is such a pro. Certainly he was frustrated and disappointed, somewhat sad, because of the work he put in. But just proud of him. And I don’t know if many guys in that clubhouse could have withstood what he did for two years.”

Joining Shane McClanahan and Jeffrey Springs, Fleming will be the third lefty in the rotation. He came into spring training needing to show the Rays that he could get right-handed hitters out. He also showed Cash and the Rays that he can control a big-league game.

“He’s a guy that really competes,” Cash said “His first outing, he got really beat up. Didn’t faze him. Came back out, pitched well. And then the other night in Minnesota, seven pitches in and he’s down 2-nothing, and it’s like, what kind of snowball effect is that gonna have? It didn’t. He competes really, really well. So good for him. He worked really hard to get to that spot, that’s for sure. ...

“We’ve got a talented group, there’s no doubt. Josh can certainly play his role with that group of starters.”

Fleming made 10 appearances last season, including three starts. He pitched to a 6.43 ERA with 29 strikeouts over 35 innings.

Cash said Chirinos just needs more time.

“I think it’s just getting the reps. He’s missed the reps,” Cash said. “I think there’s some stuff and some shaping to the slider, but the guy that we saw in spring training is really close to the version that we’ve seen at his best. I think we’ll see some uptick in velocity, as we do with all pitchers, once they get more innings under their belt come the first month of the season.”

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Coming off Tommy John surgery late last season, Glasnow’s workload would have been limited this year anyway.

Glasnow, who strained an oblique muscle early in spring training, has begun his throwing program progressions. As of Sunday, however, the right-hander was still throwing on a flat ground at just 75 feet.

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