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Pitchers' recovery key to bullpen days

MLB.com @wwchastain

BOSTON -- The bullpen day continues to evolve for the Rays, and one of the factors about slating a group of relievers to start a given day deals with monitoring the recovery of the pitchers.

After all, the group of relievers for the bullpen days are all former starters, save for Andrew Kittredge. They are familiar with making their start and not pitching again until they've had four days' rest.

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BOSTON -- The bullpen day continues to evolve for the Rays, and one of the factors about slating a group of relievers to start a given day deals with monitoring the recovery of the pitchers.

After all, the group of relievers for the bullpen days are all former starters, save for Andrew Kittredge. They are familiar with making their start and not pitching again until they've had four days' rest.

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"I think that's what we were trying to discover in Spring Training," Ryan Yarbrough said. "There were certain days when I would throw three innings and I'd try to come back after two days' rest. But it was a surprise to me. I thought I would be equally as sore.

"What I've kind of realized is beforehand I was going six or seven innings, throwing like 100 pitches. And now, I'm going like three [innings] and 50 [pitches]. So I feel like I can rebound a little faster. I think it's just something we'll keep an eye on. But as far as it goes now, I feel pretty comfortable coming back pretty fast."

Rays pitching coach Kyle Snyder said communication between the pitchers and the coaching staff is critical for finding the right formula.

"What's important is our ability to communicate with them, and their ability to be honest with us, and transparent about how they feel," Snyder said. "And getting with [the athletic trainers] in terms of what they need to do, and how they need to adjust in terms of when they're able to come back, provided their available again."

When those in the group worked as starters, they would typically throw a bullpen session two days after their start, and on the fifth day they were ready to start again. Now they have done short work on the second or third day to stay sharp.

"Because there's no guarantee they're going to be used on the day they're available," Snyder said. "And there's no guarantee that they're going to pitch on day five, six or seven, necessarily, kind of given the number of off-days and how disruptive those off-days are at the beginning of the season."

Snyder allowed that the jury is still out on the bullpen day concept, and that more data is needed to fairly assess its effectiveness.

"I think so," Snyder said. "The data is part of what we're analyzing. More than that, I'm analyzing the person. The data is important, don't get me wrong. And it's something I think we certainly value as much as any organization does. But to me, this is kind of unchartered territory, obviously, and it's more about just continue to build on the relationships that are in place and just having constant communication with these guys in terms of when they're available next."

Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2004.

Tampa Bay Rays