Yarbrough was able to throw off a mound at Tropicana Field on Friday, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports. Friday marked the first time pitchers gained access to the mounds at Tropicana Field since workouts resumed there May 25, and Yarbrough took advantage of the opportunity by throwing 15-25 pitches to a pair of bullpen catchers. Pitching coach Kyle Snyder, who oversaw the throwing sessions for multiple Rays hurlers, came away impressed with the readiness of all who participated, an assessment which bodes well for Yarbrough's outlook as he begins to ramp up his workload again.
Yarbrough, whom the Rays have seemed hesitant to anoint a full-fledged member of the rotation in the past, will likely have an enhanced opportunity for regular starts during an abbreviated 2020 season, Josh Tolentino of The Athletic reports. The southpaw fought through some adversity in 2019 to put together a solid season, one that saw him reach double-digit wins (11) for the second time in as many big-league campaigns and also finish third in WHIP (1.00) in the AL behind only Justin Verlander (0.80) and Gerrit Cole (0.89). Yarbrough was also a versatile workhorse for manager Kevin Cash, as the 28-year-old's 141.2 innings were second only to Charlie Morton's 194.2 on the Rays. Yarbrough ultimately logged 28 appearances despite being sent down to Triple-A Durham on three occasions last season, but Cash still hadn't fully committed to him as a regular starter before spring training was suspended. However, the fact the Rays had already planned on deploying a "bullpen day" strategy much less frequently in 2020 -- and that they now may look to manage starter's workloads more carefully due to an abbreviated ramp-up period to a shortened season -- both figure to solidify Yarbrough's chances of becoming a full-fledged member of the rotation.
Yarbrough was in line to operate as a traditional starter on occasion in 2020 when spring training was suspended, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports. Yarbrough certainly inspired confidence with his body of work during Grapefruit League play, allowing just one unearned run across six innings over three spring appearances. The southpaw filled a number of roles for manager Kevin Cash last season, making 14 starts in his 26 appearances while also serving as a bulk reliever following an opener. Topkin notes Yarbrough could certainly see time in the latter capacity this coming season, but adds the Rays may also use an opener less frequently in 2020 than in the past two campaigns.
Yarbrough threw 60 pitches over four innings in a simulated game Tuesday, Juan Toribio of MLB.com reports. The left-hander faced Nate Lowe, Mike Zunino and Daniel Robertson while working with Kevan Smith as his battery mate. Yarbrough threw 40 of 60 pitches for strikes and once again made a strong impression in his bid for a spot in the starting rotation. As it turns out, it was Yarbrough's last spring opportunity to do so now that the rest of the exhibition ledger has been wiped out due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but manager Kevin Cash took note of how good his potential No. 5 starter looked. "His ball moves everywhere," Cash said. "The late movement that he can create is really, really impressive. You understand why he's had so much success in his first two seasons."
Yarbrough fired three scoreless innings during which he allowed three hits and no walks in a Grapefruit League win over the Pirates on Thursday. He struck out two. The left-hander continued his stellar start to the spring at the expense of a Pittsburgh lineup that featured multiple regulars, giving him a 0.00 ERA through six innings. Juan Toribio of MLB.com reports Yarbrough threw 43 pitches, 32 of which found the strike zone, and despite allowing the leadoff man to get on in each inning, the 28-year-old was pleased with the extra work those slight struggles allowed him to get in. Yarbrough isn't likely to find out whether his quest for a spot in the starting rotation is successful until the end of Grapefruit League play, but he's certainly making a strong case thus far.
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