Notes: Yonny back; Herrmann, LaMarre FAs

July 19th, 2020

ST. PETERSBURG -- After missing the first two weeks of Summer Camp due to a positive COVID-19 test during intake testing, returned to Tropicana Field on Sunday, getting the Rays’ pitching staff closer to full strength.

“It’s great to have him back, for sure,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “He’s worked really hard [while] being absent from us, but he’s been able to get his work in.”

Chirinos said he dealt with mild symptoms for about a week, but he is thankful that they were never severe. Chirinos spent his quarantine in his St. Petersburg home and was able to do some running inside and lift enough weights to keep his arm ready.

“I feel good physically,” Chirinos said. “I consider myself, with how I’ve been preparing myself, that I’m ready to pitch whenever I’m asked.”

It’s still unclear when Chirinos will throw a bullpen session or in a simulated game, but despite missing over two weeks, both Chirinos and Cash indicated that they believe the right-hander will be ready for Opening Day.

The Rays saw Tyler Glasnow return from a positive test on Tuesday and immediately pitch 3 1/3 innings during a simulated game. Chirinos was one of the pitchers who attended voluntary workouts before the official restart of the season, which is what gives the Rays added confidence that he can slot right back into the rotation, with his first appearance possibly coming against the Braves.

“I think we envision Yonny, if all goes well, he’ll be able to slot somewhere in the back of our rotation,” Cash said. “He’ll be able to do a pretty good job of giving us length. It’s fair to assume that he’s similar to where Glasnow was when he came back, so he’ll be OK.”

With Chirinos back on the field, the Rays are getting closer to full strength. Things can change quickly with the potential of a positive test or an injury on the field, but as of Sunday, the Rays have just three players who appeared to be away from the team: Randy Arozarena, Brendan McKay and Austin Meadows.

Meadows was in attendance for the first workout on July 3, but he has since acknowledged that he tested positive for the coronavirus. Arozarena has not been seen at all during Summer Camp, while McKay was last seen on July 6. The Rays have not said why Arozarena and McKay are not in camp.

Herrmann, LaMarre become free agents
On Saturday, catcher Chris Herrmann and outfielder Ryan LaMarre opted out of their contracts with the Rays and were granted their release. Both players had an opt-out clause that expired Saturday.

While the Rays lose some outfield depth with LaMarre’s departure, the bigger loss comes with Herrmann deciding to become a free agent. Herrmann was one of just five catchers in the Rays’ 60-man player pool, and he was competing with Michael Perez and Kevan Smith for the backup catcher spot. Once he was told that he wasn’t going to be on the Opening Day roster, Herrmann decided to look for a roster spot elsewhere.

“I understand Herrmann, for sure,” Cash said. “If there’s a big league opportunity out there, jump on it. We all want to be in the big leagues, but appreciative of his efforts and the way he carried himself. We’ll see how everything plays out.”

With Herrmann released, the Rays are down to Mike Zunino, Perez, Smith and prospect Ronaldo Hernandez. Zunino will be on the Opening Day roster, and the backup spot will be decided between Perez and Smith. It’s still unlikely that Hernandez makes his debut this season, but that could change if the Rays experience some injuries at the position.

“I think we’ll constantly look for the catching,” Cash said. “The catching position is a hot commodity right now. Even the guys that aren’t on the roster. I think we’ll constantly look for what’s out there and what’s available with catchers and trust that our front office will do everything they can to [provide] the organization with as much depth as possible.”

Bullpen dominates again
One of the reasons the Rays are a popular pick to dethrone the Yankees in the American League East is because of the pitching staff, particularly the bullpen. That was put on display again on Sunday, with Diego Castillo, Pete Fairbanks, Nick Anderson and Aaron Loup all tossing scoreless frames in a simulated game.

“I’m just happy to be behind the whole pitching staff of this team,” Rays infielder José Martínez said with a smile. “These guys are so good.”