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Bradford's return boosts Rays' bullpen

Bradford's return boosts Rays' bullpen

ST. PETERSBURG -- Still a month before the Trade Deadline, the Rays may feel like they've made two acquisitions already. The return of starter Scott Kazmir earned the most notoriety.

More under the radar -- though perhaps no less significant -- was the activation of reliever Chad Bradford off the disabled list on Friday.

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Bradford, the unorthodox submarine-style right-hander, is a boost to a bullpen that has emerged as one of the best in baseball over the past few weeks. An 11-year veteran with his fifth professional franchise, Bradford, 34, has a career ERA of 3.25 in 543 appearances.

Bradford had a 1.42 ERA in 21 games with the Rays last season after being acquired from Baltimore in early August. He also made seven appearances in the postseason, compiling a 1.13 ERA.

But it's Bradford's unique arm motion and exaggerated underhand style that have kept earning him roles over the years. Right-handed batters have hit just .240 against him in his career.

"It's very good for our bullpen. He's a real, true professional," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "He's a ground-ball artist, which I love."

Bradford pitched one inning on Saturday night against Florida, surrendering one hit and striking out one. It was his first appearance since last October, after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his right elbow in early February.

Bradford said the arm felt fine before Saturday's game. He was also anxious to get back on the field.

"I've been through it before," Bradford said. "I've been through one of these rehab things that has lasted half the season. You kind of have to be patient with it, get ready."

On Sunday, Bradford started the ninth inning and quickly worked his way into a jam as he induced a groundout and then allowed two straight singles. After putting two men on, Bradford was relieved by J.P. Howell, who hit Cody Ross and walked Wes Helms, with the run that scored being charged to Bradford.

Bradford missed most of the 2005 season following offseason back surgery. He returned for 31 appearances with Boston and had a 3.86 ERA.

He's undoubtedly an asset for Tampa Bay's bullpen, which has found its groove lately. Since May 26, Rays relievers were 7-1 with a 1.95 ERA, heading into Sunday's game. They were ranked third in the Major Leagues with a 3.24 ERA for the year.

After losing right-handers Troy Percival and Jason Isringhausen to injuries, adding another veteran in Bradford is a plus.

"Just by being out in the bullpen on a nightly basis, what he does for the guys around him, is very important, too," Maddon said. "He brings a lot of intangibles, besides his abilities."

Zach Schonbrun is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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