Taj Bradley Gives Rays Reason For Excitement

Rays manager Kevin Cash didn’t need to see much in person from 22-year-old righthander Taj Bradley during spring training to confirm why he ranked as the top pitching prospect in their organization.

Basically, it took one bullpen session the first weekend of camp.

“You can certainly understand why we’re so high on him, the industry is so high on him,’’ Cash said. “A young kid—built with that physique—and it’s just a really clean delivery. He looks like he is so efficient.

“You just continue to see and envision more power, more execution.’’

The Rays envision a lot of success for Bradley, who has already made significant improvement since being a fifth-round pick in 2018 from Redan High in Stone Mountain, Ga.

After two short-season assignments, he has moved quickly following the 2020 season lost to the pandemic. He started 2021 at Low-A Charleston and by July 2022 had made it to Triple-A Durham.

Bradley started 2023 at Durham, but seems likely to make his MLB debut at some point this season.

Bradley pitched in three Grapefruit League games, including a seven-pitch debut in Fort Myers in which he hit 98 mph and retired three Red Sox big leaguers: Triston Casas on a groundout, then all-stars Rafael Devers (flyout) and Justin Turner (popout).

The Rays weren’t the only ones impressed.

“He was good,” Devers said. “When he threw his fastball up in the zone, it gets on you quick and is tough to hit. He’s going to be good.”

The Rays optioned Bradley to minor league camp by mid March so that he could focus on preparing for the season.

Cash said the message to Bradley was that he showed well, needed to work on some things and had a bright future.

Bradley, whom Cash regarded as “level-headed” and “poised,” made some specific impressions beyond how he threw the ball.

“It was impressive how he responded,” Cash said. “The one outing he fell behind, his pitch count got up, but he was very composed throughout the outing . . . There’s a reason to excited for him.’’


— The Rays sent most of their top prospects in big league camp to Triple-A Durham, including Curtis Mead, Osleivis Basabe and rehabbing reliever Colby White. One exception was Greg Jones, who was sent to Double-A Montgomery, where he will play shortstop—after a brief late-spring experiment in center field—and seek to build off a rough 2022. Last season he hit .238 with a .710 OPS for the Biscuits, striking out 128 times in 79 games.

— Veteran outfielder Ben Gamel, who signed a minor league deal as camp opened, agreed to go to Durham. Reliever Kyle Crick and utility infielder Charlie Culberson asked for their releases. Infielder Daniel Robertson also was released. Reliever Colten Brewer was headed to Durham but invoked an assignment clause in his contract and was sold to the Yankees.

— The Rays cleared up some minor league depth by trading outfielder Jordan Qsar to the Phillies and outfielder Grant Witherspoon and first baseman Dillon Paulsen to the Tigers.

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