ST. PETERSBURG — Yonny Chirinos doesn’t get a lot of attention. Heck, he doesn’t even get to start every game he pitches. But he is quietly posting some of the best numbers around.
Going into Wednesday’s matinee, which he is expected to start, Chirinos ranks among the AL leaders with seven wins, a 2.87 ERA, a .198 opponents average and a 0.90 WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched).
His recent work, capped by his eight shutout innings Friday in Boston (when he retired the first 15), is clearly his best since debuting with the Rays last season.
“This stretch here, he looks pretty comfortable,’’ Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “Established. His stuff is playing up. He’s getting some late life, some late movement. It’s really helping him get deep in his outings.’’
Chirinos, a 25-year-old Venezuelan, said has gotten more confident and comfortable as he has gone. Plus, the chance to pitch on pretty much a regular once-every-five-days schedule has helped, as he prepares for each outing as if he’s starting and adjusts if the Rays opt to use an opener.
“Definitely this stretch of good outings is the best of my career,’’ he said via translator Manny Navarro. “I want to be better than the month before. I’ve got to keep on working and hopefully I still feel good and can become a better pitcher in the future.’’
Wendle close to return
Infielder Joey Wendle could rejoin the Rays as soon as Thursday. Wendle, out since April 25 with a broken right wrist, played his fourth rehab game on Tuesday, going 1-for-4 while playing shortstop for Triple-A Durham. “He’s getting close,’’ Cash said. “We’re optimistic we’re going to see him on this homestand.’’ Assuming all went well, Wendle will return to St. Petersburg Wednesday to be re-evaluated and then could be activated. Though Wendle has played primarily second, the Rays are likely to also use him as a lefty-hitting option at shortstop and third. Either Christian Arroyo or Daniel Robertson is likely to be sent down to make room. Wendle has played only eight games for the Rays this season, having also been sidelined with a hamstring strain.
Ji-Man has been a happy man
Usually you hear players saying they are having fun when they are playing well. Rays first baseman Ji-Man had a different take, saying his recent good run at the plate is the result of having more fun. After a rough month, hitting .222 with a .645 OPS from May 1 through June 1, he not only worked with hitting coach Chad Mottola on improving his swing but also talked several times with Rays mental skills coach Justin Su’a to adjust his attitude. “I’m just trying to enjoy myself out there,’’ Choi said via translator Ha Ram (Sam) Jeong. “During May I was looking at myself and I realized I wasn’t being happy when I was playing. So I’m just trying to enjoy myself.’’ Going into play Tuesday, Choi had hits in his last seven games, with multiple hits in his five starts, improving his overall average to .287, OPS to .820.
Number of the day
Estimated distance of Tommy Pham homer onto leftfield walkway.
After signing top draft pick Greg Jones on Tuesday, the Rays are working to complete deals by the weekend with their next two selections, pitchers J.J. Goss and Seth Johnson. Already signed are pitcher Nathan Wiles (eighth round), catcher Jonathan Embry (10th), infielder Nick Sogard (12th), outfielders Zach Huffins (13th) and Logan Allen (14th), infielder Brett Wisely (15th), lefty Joe LaSorsa (18th), righty Jayden Murray (23rd), outfielders Garrett Hiott (25th) and Hill Alexander (28th), pitchers Carter Bach (34th) and Mitchell Walters (35th), infielder Angelo Armenta (38th), righty Andrew Gross (39th), catcher Luis Trevino (40th round). The signing deadline is July 12.
* Leading hitter Austin Meadows was sore after fouling a ball off his right foot in the eighth inning and is unlikely to play Wednesday.
* Backup catcher Travis d’Arnaud has been working at first base, and has looked comfortable enough that Cash said with a bunch of lefty starters slated to face the Rays, “there’s a good chance we could get him over there, especially the way he’s swinging the bat right now.’’
* Lefty reliever Jose Alvarado, away from the team since June 2, and on the unpaid restricted list since Sunday, is expected back by week’s end.
* Righty Tyler Glasnow extended his throwing from 75 feet to 90 as he works back from a forearm strain eyeing a post All-Star break return. … Lefty Anthony Banda has progressed to throwing sim games as he approaches the one-year anniversary of June 14 Tommy John surgery and is set start a rehab assignment June 23.