More bad news out of St. Petersburg, Tampa Bay Rays right-hander Yonny Chirinos, who was activated from the Injured List late last week — then subsequently placed back on the IL this week due to an elbow strain — has been recommended for Tommy John surgery. Chirinos likely will not return to action until 2022.
Chirinos has become an important member of the Rays pitching staff, working to a combined 3.65 ERA with 7.6 K/9, 2.2 BB/9, 1.23 HR/9 and a 42.8% ground-ball rate over parts of the last three seasons. He becomes the fourth hurler to miss the remainder of the 2020 season, joining LHP/1B Brendan McKay (shoulder), RHP Andrew Kittredge (elbow), and LHP Colin Poche (elbow).
The Rays will correspond by promoting LHP Josh Fleming. They will need to open a spot on the 40-man roster for Fleming, although that can be achieved by placing Chirinos on the 45-day IL.
Fleming pitched well at two levels during his first full season (2018) and was even better a season later, making the jump from Double-A Montgomery — where he ranked among the Southern League leaders in wins (tied for first), ERA (fifth), WHIP (fourth) and innings (sixth) — up to Triple-A Durham, according to StatCast. MLB.com lists Fleming 29th among the Rays farmhands, and the lefty pitched to a combined 3.40 ERA over his minor league career with a 6.6 K/9, 1.6 BB/9, and a 53.4% ground-ball rate.
He boasts a clean delivery and a repertoire of three effective pitches: A 94 mph fastball with a ton of late sink and run, which he can spot on both sides of the plate or drive it down in the zone to coax ground balls; an above-average slider; and an average changeup. FanGraphs projects Fleming to eventually play a role in the bullpen due to his struggles against right-handed hitting.
Rays skipper Kevin Cash confirmed that Fleming will start Sunday’s ball game against the Blue Jays.
You can learn more about Fleming in the Rays Radio podcast curated by Neil Solondz