The Rays have added reliever Luke Bard to their 40-man roster, tweets Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. He won’t be heading to the big leagues immediately, though, as the team is keeping him on optional assignment to Triple-A Durham. Tampa Bay transferred Chris Mazza from the 10-day to the 60-day injured list to open space on the 40-man roster.
It’s atypical for a team to add a player to the 40-man without an immediate big league promotion, but a contractual nuance explains the decision. Bard signed a minor league deal in Spring Training, and Topkin notes that agreement came with an opt-out provision around this time. Bard either had triggered or was set to trigger the opt-out, leaving the Rays to decide whether to add him to the 40-man or grant him his release.
That Tampa Bay took the former route suggests they see him as a viable MLB relief candidate, even if he’s not headed to the majors at the moment. Bard has surrendered three home runs in only 8 2/3 innings with Durham, but he has nine strikeouts and has only issued two walks. The front office obviously believes the home run issue is a small sample blip, and Bard could soon get back to the majors for the first time since 2020.
The 31-year-old righty (the younger brother of Rockies closer Daniel Bard) has appeared in parts of three MLB seasons. That stint came with the Angels from 2018-20, with the majority of his workload coming in the middle year. Bard tallied 66 innings over 46 outings, posting a 5.05 ERA. He was a bit homer-prone in his MLB time as well, but he generated swinging strikes at a decent 12% clip and only walked 6.5% of batters faced. Bard missed all of last season recovering from right hip surgery and was outrighted off the Angels’ 40-man roster last October.
Mazza also signed a minors pact with Tampa Bay over the offseason. He broke camp with the MLB team but made just two appearances before landing on the injured list, retroactive to April 18, due to lower back spasms. Today’s transfer means he can’t return for sixty days from the date of his original placement, so he’ll be out until at least late June recovering.
The 32-year-old Mazza recently progressed to throwing live batting practice, as team broadcaster Neil Solondz tweeted yesterday. That seems to indicate he won’t be out for too much longer, but he was certain to require a minor league rehab assignment anyhow. He can embark on that assignment to get back into game shape before becoming eligible to return to the club. Rehab assignments for pitchers can last for as long as 30 days.