NEW YORK — The Rays are making a series of changes to their pitching staff, adding prospect Taj Bradley to the rotation on an ongoing basis starting Thursday, sending Yonny Chirinos back to Triple-A Durham and setting up Tyler Glasnow to be activated around May 26.
The most newsy move was the pivot to put Bradley, the 22-year-old who impressed in an unexpected April debut (going 3-0 with a 3.52 ERA in three outings), back in the rotation. He’ll have an opportunity to stick around following the loss of Drew Rasmussen to a forearm injury for at least several months, which came after Jeffrey Springs underwent season-ending Tommy John surgery.
When the Rays sent Bradley down following his April 24 outing, they said the move was primarily so he could transition from the six-day schedule he was on in the minors to a five-day routine necessary in the majors. But he didn’t pitch well over his first three starts during that process — only the last of which was on a fifth day — allowing 16 runs, 14 hits and six walks in nine innings while striking out five.
“Where we’re at with the injuries that we’ve had, I think we recognize we view him as one of our better options to go forward with,” manager Kevin Cash said. “We’re excited to get him back up here, and hopefully he can find a routine up here to help keeping us winning games.”
The most surprising move was sending down Chirinos, who even after allowing three runs over 4-2/3 innings Tuesday still has a solid 2-1 record and 2.79 ERA. But his performance has dipped a bit following his April 14 call-up, as he has a 4.80 ERA over his last three outings, allowing 11 hits and nine walks in 15 innings, with only three strikeouts.
By doing so, the Rays were able to add an extra reliever for the night in calling up right-hander Zack Burdi, who will be sent back down Thursday to make room for Bradley.
“Yonny had thrown the ball well for us,” Cash said. “I think it’s fair to say we think there’s more there. ... Yonny is such a pro; talking to him (Wednesday) morning, I trust that he’ll get down there and do what he needs to do to help us and get back up here.”
The move comes just days before Chirinos reaches five years of major-league service, which could be a factor in preserving depth. If he got to five and the Rays dropped him from the 40-man roster and he cleared waivers, he would have the right to refuse an outright assignment to Durham and could become a free agent.
The most debatable move was having Glasnow make a fourth rehab start for Durham, likely on Sunday, after he looked healthy and dominant over four innings Tuesday, striking out nine while allowing three hits and one walk while throwing 57 pitches (40 strikes).
But Glasnow left his previous outing after one inning after feeling tightness in the area of the left oblique strain that has sidelined him since Feb. 27. Though he checked out fine, the Rays want to make sure he is fully built up.
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“(Tuesday was) very encouraging,” Cash said. “He’s champing at the bit to get here, and that’s a good sign. I think it’s highly likely that we give him one more start. And hopefully it goes as well, gets his pitch count somewhere around the 75 mark, and we’ll go from there.” Presumably, a solid Sunday outing would lead to Glasnow’s activation, likely to face the Dodgers on May 26.
With Chirinos gone and Glasnow not ready, the Rays will have to patch another open spot Sunday, needing a starter or someone to cover bulk innings behind an opener, with Cooper Criswell seeming a likely option for a call-up.
If Glasnow returns and no one else gets hurt, the Rays’ rotation would look like this: Shane McClanahan, Zach Eflin, Glasnow, Josh Fleming (who threw five shutout innings Wednesday) and Bradley.
The Rays stole seven bases Wednesday, their most in a game since Sept. 16, 2011 (at Boston) and one off the team mark set May 3, 2009 (against Boston). Wander Franco had two, giving him 14 for the season. ... Cash said infielder Yandy Diaz, who left Sunday’s game with left groin tightness, was feeling better and could be used as a pinch-hitter. Cash would prefer to not play him until Friday. ... Josh Lowe batted leadoff, the fourth time he has done so in the majors.
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