Rays place Pepiot on IL; Bradley to make '24 debut Friday

May 8th, 2024

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays are about to add one young power arm to their rotation while temporarily losing another one.

Right-hander was placed on the 15-day injured list on Wednesday due to a lower left leg contusion, the result of him taking a 107.5 mph comebacker from Starling Marte off his left leg during Sunday’s series finale against the Mets at Tropicana Field.

His spot in the rotation will be filled by talented right-hander , who was reinstated from the IL to take Pepiot’s place on the roster. Bradley is scheduled to make his season debut against the Yankees on Friday night after missing the first six weeks of the season due to a right pectoral strain he sustained during Spring Training.

“I'm really excited. The time that I took off felt like forever when I was there, but looking back, it was only two months,” Bradley said Wednesday. “And within those two months, I found out some stuff that I could work on, being away from the game, that I was worried about correcting during the season.”

Pepiot’s stint on the IL was made retroactive to Monday. Initial X-rays on Sunday were negative, and a follow-up CT scan on Tuesday revealed no fractures. Pepiot said the bone was bruised more than expected, but he anticipates serving the minimum stint on the IL.

More than anything, the Rays didn’t want to risk having Pepiot further aggravate his injury by planting down on his left leg 100-plus times just to make his next start. Manager Kevin Cash also said he’s hoping for a “very short-term” stay on the IL for Pepiot.

“We kind of took it day to day with Pep. I think we had in the back of our mind that there was a chance of that happening,” Cash said. “Really feel like this is a smart thing to do. For him to land on that leg 100 times here in a couple of days probably didn't make the most sense.”

Pepiot has been a key member of Tampa Bay’s rotation this season after joining the club in the Tyler Glasnow trade over the offseason. The 26-year-old has a 3.68 ERA with 41 strikeouts, 11 walks and a .180 opponents’ average in 36 2/3 innings over seven starts.

Pepiot threw a couple warmup pitches before Cash pulled him from Sunday’s outing. He was sore and bruised and said he felt better as he played catch Monday afternoon, but Cash said Pepiot showed up Tuesday feeling “a little sorer than what we were anticipating.”

The right-hander played catch again Wednesday and hopes to get back on the mound to throw a bullpen session this weekend or early next week.

“Just trying to take it day by day. The swelling has gone down a lot,” he said. “Now it's just [waiting for] the bone to heal. But I'm lucky. If it hit an inch over, I'd be in a cast right now.

“Taking a cautious route … because we do have an off-day tomorrow, but then we've got a stretch with 13 division games in a row and [I] don't want to have a game in there where we tax the bullpen for seven, eight innings because something went wrong.”

Bradley’s return gave the Rays a little more freedom to play it safe with Pepiot. He can slot into a rotation that remains full with Zach Eflin, Aaron Civale, Zack Littell and Tyler Alexander.

Bradley was thrust into the Rays’ rotation earlier (and more often) than expected last season and went 5-8 with a 5.59 ERA as a rookie. But the club expects bigger things out of the 23-year-old, formerly their top prospect, and the strikeout stuff he showed last year -- 129 in 104 2/3 innings over 23 outings -- was just one indication.

Bradley was excellent in two Minor League rehab starts for Triple-A Durham last week, showing he was ready to come off the IL. He pitched five hitless innings with seven strikeouts and one walk on April 28 then permitted just one run on two hits and a pair of walks while striking out eight over six innings last Friday.

“I've heard his stuff has been very, very good. He's throwing the ball over the plate. He's controlling the running game,” Cash said. “He's got a lot of confidence with all of his pitches right now, because he knows he's going to need to mix against the Yankees on Friday.”