Top Rays pitching prospect Taj Bradley makes dazzling debut

FORT MYERS — Top Rays pitching prospect Taj Bradley showed how much he was looking forward to his first big-league spring training appearance Sunday by riding the team bus from Disney early Saturday morning and staying over in Fort Myers so he could keep his normal start-day routine.

Then he showed why there is so much excitement about his eventual arrival in the majors.

Bradley zipped through his one inning, hitting 98 mph on the stadium board in needing only seven pitches (five strikes) to set down three Boston big-leaguers — Triston Casas (groundout) and veteran All-Stars Rafeal Devers (flyout) and Justin Turner (popout).

“Extremely satisfied,” said Bradley, 21. “It’s a good way to break it in. Five out of seven strikes, and face some good guys while doing it. So kind of get the jitters all out and be ready for the next outing.”

Bradley, who split last season between Double-A Montgomery and Triple-A Durham, said he was fine warming up but got an adrenaline rush and “kind of a heart pump going” as he sat in the dugout waiting to take the mound.

He looked pretty good to his catcher.

“Amazing. … It was just lights-out,” Christian Bethancourt said. “He didn’t look nervous at all. He was just doing his thing, having fun out there and throwing strikes.”

And to his boss.

“Very impressive,” manager Kevin Cash said. “Lots of power, strike-throwing.”

Also to Devers, the Sox’s lefty slugger.

“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.”

In addition to a broad smile, Bradley came away with a souvenir from the game. Someone got him the ball from Turner’s inning-ending popout, and Bradley sent it over to the Boston clubhouse to have it signed.

Luke Raley has a blast

Luke Raley didn’t need much time to pick what he liked better Sunday, his running and run-saving catch in rightfield or the game-tying homer he clubbed to right-center in the sixth off a left-hander. “I like the homer, for sure,” he said. “It makes it a little bit better that it was left-on-left. But all homers are created equal in my book.”

Game details: Red Sox 7, Rays 6

A three-walk outing by Jaime Schultz in his first game since May 20, 2021 and pre-Tommy John surgery, and a popup that eluded second baseman Osleivis Basabe led to a three-run Boston sixth and a 4-1 deficit. … But Basabe, an infield prospect added to the 40-man roster, made amends with an eighth-inning grand slam that went over the Florida version of the Green Monster to give the Rays a 6-4 lead. “It felt really good,” Basabe said in Spanish. … Cash raved about the work of pitcher Michael Mercado, a 2017 second-round pick, who had a 1-2-3, two-strikeout inning, hitting 99 mph. … The Sox tied it in the eighth with two runs off Hector Perez, then won on a walkoff single by Ryan Fitzgerald after Anthony Molina walked the first two. … The game took 2:39 with four pitch-clock violations, including one on Rays pitcher Colten Brewer.


Cash said there were no real updates on three injured players: infielder Taylor Walls (oblique) is getting treatment and not doing any baseball activities; reliever Shawn Armstong (neck) will be shut down for five-six more days; reliever Calvin Faucher (oblique) remains limited to playing catch. ... Cash said there was some clarification from Saturday’s game, when the Rays were called for a shift violation: An infraction is made if an infielder’s foot is on the grass once a pitcher starts his delivery; but an infraction for crossing the “neutral zone” at second base (as Vidal Brujan was called for) isn’t made until the pitcher releases the ball.

• • •

Sign up for the Rays Report weekly newsletter to get fresh perspectives on the Tampa Bay Rays and the rest of the majors from sports columnist John Romano.

Never miss out on the latest with the Bucs, Rays, Lightning, Florida college sports and more. Follow our Tampa Bay Times sports team on Twitter and Facebook.