ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays added a familiar and experienced option to their bullpen on Thursday, bringing back RHP Kevin Jepsen after he was released by the Twins.
Jepsen, 31, passed a physical and threw a bullpen at the Trop after Thursday's workout and, though he has not pitched in a game since July 2, could be activated tonight.
Jepsen was acquired before the 2015 season (from the Angels for OF Matt Joyce) and did well until being traded to Minnesota at the July 31 deadline, a deal that upset others in the Rays clubhouse as the team was still in the wild-card race. The trade did net two prospects, one, RHP Chih-Wei Hu, doing well enough to have been selected for the All-Star Futures Game.
Jepsen struggled this season for the lowly Twins, posting a 2-5, 6.16 record, that led to him being designated for assignment and, with a $5.3 million salary, clearing waivers and being released. The Rays, responsible for only a prorated share of the major-league minimum, see him as helping with improved pitching as well as leadership. One rookie reliever — RHP Dylan Floro, Ryan Garton or Tyler Sturdevant — is likely to be sent down to make room.
Catching on: C Luke Maile will be called up from Triple A to replace Hank Conger, who was optioned to Durham on Monday.
Maile, 25, is known for his solid defense and throwing, and has shown improvement at the plate, hitting .345 over the past three weeks to raise his average to .242.
"I've just been trying to be myself," Maile said. "There's been some times when I've tried to do a little bit too much."
Maile got some experience last September and said that will help him focus on playing.
Manager Kevin Cash said they expected to bring Maile back at some point, and his recent offensive surge made this the right time, choosing him over veteran J.P. Arencibia.
Conger's struggles at and behind the plate surely contributed to the timing, Cash saying it was "a little bit unfortunate" he got off to a slow start and couldn't rebound. "We'll see if with consistent playing time he can iron out some things both offensively and defensively," he said.
Special K: CF Kevin Kiermaier played in both games of a doubleheader for advanced Class A Charlotte in an effort to get his timing down enough to return tonight from his eight week-stint on the disabled list due to a broken left hand. Rained out Wednesday, Kiermaier went 1-for-2 with a walk in the first game while playing centerfield and was the DH in the nightcap. The Rays will have to make a roster move to add Kiermaier, possibly sending down another reliever.
Rehab report: RHP Alex Cobb (Tommy John surgery) threw a bullpen session with no apparent issues Thursday, but he will get at least an extra day of rest before his next rehab start. Cobb left his Monday start, the second of a scheduled six, due to fatigue after one inning, having thrown 27 pitches. "Nothing bad happened," Cash said.
INF/DH Steve Pearce (hamstring) said he felt very good after a full workout and running the bases, with plans to start a rehab assignment this weekend and rejoin the Rays next week. … RHP Brad Boxberger (oblique) will throw another bullpen session today but will need what sounds like an extended rehab. "He's gonna have to build back up, no doubt," Cash said. … OFs Desmond Jennings (hamstring) and Mikie Mahtook (broken left hand) are still in the workout stages.
Arched up: RHP Chris Archer said the answer to his extensive first-inning struggles is internal: "It's not that I need to warm up more or warm up less, it's just a matter of whenever I'm on the mound of attacking hitters."
Miscellany: About 20 players attended the optional workout; the Orioles worked out Thursday night. … The 34-54 record and 20 games under .500 were the Rays worst at the break since the 2005 team was 28-61. Those Devil Rays, for what it's worth, went 39-34 after the break.