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Rays send rookie starter Taj Bradley back to Triple A

Notes | Concerned about the impact of a rough stretch on the 22-year-old, the Rays want Bradley to “take a breath ... gather himself.”
 
Rays baseball operations president Erik Neander on rookie pitcher Taj Bradley, who is headed back to Durham: “I think he is really, really close to being a front-end starter in the big leagues."
Rays baseball operations president Erik Neander on rookie pitcher Taj Bradley, who is headed back to Durham: “I think he is really, really close to being a front-end starter in the big leagues." [ KEVIN M. COX | AP ]
Published Aug. 1, 2023|Updated Aug. 1, 2023

NEW YORK — In adding established starter Aaron Civale to their rotation, the Rays decided to send rookie Taj Bradley back to Triple A.

The 22-year-old has been struggling, going 0-4, 9.12 over his last six starts with the Rays, losing all the games. The move, as much as anything, may provide Bradley a chance to relax and reset mentally.

Overall, Bradley is 5-7, 5.67 in 16 starts.

“I think he is really, really close to being a front-end starter in the big leagues,” Rays baseball operations president Erik Neander said. “But I think one thing we wanted to make sure of is that over the next two months, as we’re grinding through this thing against some really, really good teams, that we don’t ask too much of someone that young.

“I think that can sometimes do more harm than good; you can get ... where you have no choice but to continue forward with someone. So I think this will be of benefit to him. ... Let him take a breath, let him gather himself.”

Manager Kevin Cash, who delivered the news to Bradley on Monday, noted that he has done some good things as well over the stretch, such as striking out 28 in 25 1/3 innings while walking 11.

“I talked to him and basically said that, what his numbers are or what you look (at), that’s not the way he’s performed,” Cash said. “You look at the strikeouts, you look at the lack of walks, you look at the overall stuff, a lot of the underlying stuff — he’s been everything as advertised and more.

“I do think it’s fair for him to go down there and feel a little bit of success, ideally. For a young pitcher, the last four or five or six starts, the way it’s gone has been a challenge. But we need Taj to be really good. That was reiterated to him. He’s a really confident kid, and he’ll go down there and make the most of it.”

For now, re-converted reliever Zack Littell will continue to hold down a spot it the rotation, slated to make his next start Friday in Detroit. But Bradley is expected to rejoin the Rays at some point this season.

“We talked earlier in the year about workload and being mindful of what’s asked of him physically,” Neander said. “This will certainly help make sure we’re in a position where he can be a factor later if he gets the opportunity or it’s warranted by merit. So couldn’t be more happy about what’s ahead of him.”

Reliever Ryan Thompson was called up Monday to take Bradley’s spot on the active roster; Civale will be added in advance of his scheduled Saturday start in Detroit.

Eflin set to start Tuesday

Zach Eflin still has some soreness in his left knee stemming from Wednesday’s strain of the popliteus muscle, but having dealt with a series of knee issues in his career, said there has been continued improvement and he is confident he will be good to start Tuesday’s game.

“I’ve learned how to pitch on a bunch of different things in the lower half throughout my career, so this is not really even close to what I’ve had to go through before,” he said. “So I’m encouraged. I’m in the right spot. I feel good about (Tuesday) and ready to go.”

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Miscellany

The Yankees called up and starter Jhony Brito after scratching scheduled starter Domingo German due to arm pit discomfort, then pitched him in relief. ... Yandy Diaz, who drew Cash out of the dugout when he grimaced while stretching his previously sore left groin for a throw, logged his team-leading 33rd multi-hit game of the season. .... The Rays are 5-3 against the Yankees, 3-2 in the Bronx.

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