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Rays opening day starter Zach Eflin placed on 15-day IL with lower back inflammation

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Rays placed opening day starter Zach Eflin on the 15-day injured list with lower back inflammation before Monday night’s game against Boston.

Eflin has struggled this year after a strong first season with Tampa Bay in 2023, going 3-4 with a 4.12 ERA in 10 starts. The right-hander was 16-8 last year after signing a $40 million, three-year contract, which was the largest free-agent deal in Rays’ history.

Rays manager Kevin Cash said the goal is for Eflin to be back in two to four weeks, He won’t throw for a week.

“We’ll see how that goes,” Cash said. “I’m guessing it will all be symptom driven.”

Eflin, on the IL last season from April 11 to 23 because of lower back tightness, said the latest setback popped up late in his start Saturday in Toronto.

“Doesn’t feel great,” Eflin said. “It’s uncomfortable. Kind of happened last year and I felt good after about eight days.”

Oft-injured Rays second baseman Brandon Lowe was reinstated from the 15-day injured list after being sidelined by a right oblique strain.

Lowe last played with the Rays on April 7, and was hitting .185 with one homer and four RBIs in eight games before going on the IL.

This is the third consecutive year that Lowe has been impacted by injuries after hitting 39 homers and driving in 99 runs in 2021.

“From what I’ve gathered and everything else, the way people come back from obliques there’s never one person that says they feel great and they don’t feel a thing anymore,” Lowe said. “There’s going to be times when I’m sore. There’s going to be swings I don’t feel great. But what I gathered from the last doctor’s visit is that it’s just part of the process.”

Ryan Pepiot is set to rejoin the rotation on Wednesday night against the Red Sox after being out with a bruised lower left leg, the result of a 107.5 mph liner by the New York Mets’ Starling Marte on May 5.

The right-hander, acquired in an offseason trade in which the Rays sent ace Tyler Glasnow to the Los Angeles Dodgers, is 3-2 with a 3.68 ERA in seven starts.

“Bruising is pretty much gone,” Pepiot said. “Got a good little bump on the bone I don’t think is going away, but I feel good.”

Jeffrey Springs allowed one run, three hits and struck two over one inning for the rookie-level FCL Rays against the FCL Pirates in his first start since Tommy John surgery. It was the left-hander’s first game since April 13, 2023.

Springs was 2-0 with an 0.56 ERA in three starts last season being his season-ending injury.

Two other injured starting pitchers also continue to make progress in their comebacks from injuries.

Drew Rasmussen (internal right elbow brace surgery) is set for his first bullpen session on Tuesday, while Shane Baz (Tommy John surgery) will make his fourth rehab start with Triple-A Durham on Wednesday night.

Left-hander Richard Lovelady, acquired last week from the Chicago Cubs, was added to the active roster. Reliever Manuel Rodriguez was optioned to Durham.