06/21/09 1:22 PM ET
Bradford close to returning to Rays
Reliever likely to make three more Triple-A appearances
By Bill Chastain / MLB.com
The submarine-throwing righty has been on the disabled list all year after offseason right elbow surgery, but now he is close to returning to the Rays' bullpen.
Bradford is scheduled to make back-to-back appearances Wednesday and Thursday, and then will likely make a final appearance with Durham on Saturday before returning to the Rays. Manager Joe Maddon looks forward to having Bradford back in his bullpen.
"For me, it's a big boost," Maddon said. "He's one of my favorite pitchers to give the baseball to in a close situation, because he is so calm. This guy is unbelievably loose and calm at tight moments. He's a high ground-ball rate pitcher, which we love. He's going to probably put the ball on the ground. He's very durable. We've been trying to build up his durability again.
"But I really believe that if you're a right-handed hitter and you see Chad warming up, you're not in the on-deck circle, 'Oh good, Bradford's coming into the game.' He's a solid professional, and I think he adds a lot to us performance-wise and also his presence in the bullpen."
Tampa Bay's bullpen has been on a roll lately. Dating back to June 8 at Yankee Stadium, Rays relievers have allowed two runs in 33 1/3 innings for an ERA of 0.54. In addition to Bradford, the 'pen should get Brian Shouse back at an as-yet-to-be-determined date.
The Rays have been operating without a closer for most of this season, going with matchups primarily. Maddon said he is comfortable with the composition of the bullpen.
"For me, am I comfortable doing it this way? The answer is yes," Maddon said. "I think when you have a bunch of even or ahead guys in the bullpen, which I believe we have, you can match it up and keep it this way for the whole season and win. I believe that. Now, if there was a real qualified closer, I don't know who that guy is, but if there was and he was available, of course ... if we were interested and could do it, that would be great.
"I'm comfortable. I believe that we have that kind of versatility within our group."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.