White Sox reliever Ryan Tepera can be counted on for a blunt response, and the subject of his return from the 10-day injured list on Friday was no different.
“Took a while,” he said on his way in from fielding batting practice before the series opener against the Tigers.
Activated over two weeks after slicing the index finger of his right hand, Tepera blew past his initial timeline of five to seven days for the cut to heal. Even so, he told NBC Sports Chicago he thinks the timing of his return gives him enough runway to be playoff ready for the American League Division Series.
That’s good news for the White Sox, who are still evaluating starting pitcher Carlos Rodón’s recovery from his last regular season start on Wednesday. With questions remaining about the starting rotation, another option at the back end of the bullpen could be especially valuable.
“We’ve got three (regular season) games left,” Tepera said. “I can probably get in two of those games and get refreshed and get in some game situations before the playoffs start. So, I feel like it’s a pretty good time. It could have been a lot worse.”
Tepera (0-2, 2.88 ERA) is scheduled to pitch on Friday and Sunday, White Sox manager Tony La Russa said in his pregame Zoom press conference on Friday. Then, the White Sox will evaluate whether the right-hander needs more work during the team workout next Tuesday, before Game 1 of the ALDS two days later.
“I’ve been throwing bullpens and stuff, so the arm feels really good,” Tepera said. “I feel in shape. … It’s a long season. I’ve been doing this for six, seven months. So, I didn’t miss too much time to where it’s drawn out to where it’s going to be a lot of problems.”
The cut, on the pad of his finger, was in a tricky spot for a pitcher. But Tepera added that the feeling in that area is back to normal.
“No numbness, no tingling,” he said.
The back end of the White Sox bullpen is coming into focus ahead of the postseason. Garrett Crochet, Aaron Bummer and now Tepera (as long as everything goes to plan) are strong options in late innings, ahead of All-Star closers Craig Kimbrel and Liam Hendriks. Tepera, who has been to the playoffs with the Blue Jays and Cubs, adds a veteran presence to the group of setup men.
“We saw today the depth,” La Russa said of his bullpen earlier this week.
On Friday, it got deeper.