ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Ryan Yarbrough pitched four innings in his final spring training appearance, helping the Tampa Bay Rays close out their exhibition schedule with a 9-3 victory over the Detroit Tigers on Tuesday.
The 27-year-old left-hander led major league rookies with 16 victories last season, including a 14-4 record with a 3.72 ERA in 32 appearances out of the bullpen, where he thrived in a role of following “openers” who usually got the first three to six outs of a game.
Yarbough was a sidelined a portion of spring training by groin tightness, but said he feels he’s where he needs to be heading into the regular season after allowing one run and five hits during a 58-pitch outing Tuesday at Tropicana Field.
“The feel has been there all spring, but I missed a little bit of time and then it’s been about getting the innings up and getting ready for that first time out,” Yarbrough said. “I set myself up to be able to do that today where I got the four innings in, and now I can go five innings next time.”
Nate Lowe, Michael Perez and Carl Chester homered for the Rays, who also got big hits early from Kevin Kiermaier, Avisail Garcia and Tommy Pham while building a 4-0 lead against Tigers starter Matt Moore.
Moore, who walked one and struck out three over three innings, yielded three runs in the first and a RBI triple to Pham in the second.
“I’d obviously have liked to have had a better first inning,” Moore said. “But to be able to kind of calm it down in the second and third, I think, was the adjustment I was looking for.”
Yarbrough finished 16-6 with a 3.91 ERA over 38 appearances, including six starts last season. With the Rays entering 2019 with a three-man rotation of AL Cy Young winner Blake Snell, Charlie Morton and Tyler Glasnow, manager Kevin Cash once again will rely heavily on “openers” to fill in for the customary fourth and fifth starters.
“I don’t think there’s anything specific (planned) throughout the whole year,” Yarbrough said of his expected role.
“We had to change things up so much as the year went on, based on who was there, who was healthy and how everyone was throwing,” the left-hander added. “So right now, I think I’m just going to be coming in after the opener and, depending on matchups, we’re going to be taking it outing by outing and go from there.”
Tigers 1B Miguel Cabrera went 0 for 1, ending a six-game hitting streak. The slugger was 8 for 17 over his last seven games with two doubles, three homers and eight RBIs, finishing with a .340 spring training batting average.
The Rays optioned RHP Emilio Pagan to Triple-A Durham, trimming the spring training roster to 28 players. Three of those players — INF Matt Duffy (left hamstring soreness), as well as LHP Anthony Banda and RHP Jose De Leon (both recovering from Tommy John surgery) — will begin the regular season on the injured list.
Tigers: Open 119th season at Toronto on Thursday, with RHP Jordan Zimmermann getting the start against RHP Marcus Stroman.
Rays: Tenth consecutive opening day at Tropicana Field with reigning AL Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell facing last year’s runner-up for the award, Justin Verlander, and the Houston Astros.