Rays' Boxberger falters for second straight game

Brad Boxberger, who has been the Rays' best reliever for most of the season, says he's struggling to throw the ball exactly where he wants to. WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times
Brad Boxberger, who has been the Rays' best reliever for most of the season, says he's struggling to throw the ball exactly where he wants to.WILL VRAGOVIC | Times
Published May 28 2015

ST. PETERSBURG — RHP Brad Boxberger didn't have too happy of a 27th birthday.

Tuesday night, he gave up a 10th-inning homer to Kyle Seager that cost the Rays in a 7-6 defeat. Then Wednesday afternoon he allowed a three-run homer to Nelson Cruz that was the difference in the 3-0 loss to Seattle.

After seven weeks as the Rays' best reliever, Boxberger was at his locker for two straight games trying to explain what went wrong, primarily that he can't get the ball to go where he wants.

"It's just part of it," he said. "Everyone goes through a slump at some point during the year, and it's a long year."

Boxberger said he feels fine physically, and manager Kevin Cash dismissed any concerns over using Boxberger 20 times (for 181/3 innings) in the first 48 games.

"(Wednesday) was the first time I thought he was just a little out of whack," Cash said. "He was missing a little more than we're accustomed to, but I don't think it has anything to do with wear. He feels fine."

The homers were the first Boxberger has allowed this season, but he said Wednesday the two full-count walks that preceded Cruz's majors-leading 18th blast were the bigger problem. "Every pitch I was kind of just hoping it would go where I wanted it to," he said.

KK OK: CF Kevin Kiermaier left the game shortly after being hit on the right foot by a Felix Hernandez pitch in the sixth. He was sore and said it felt tight, but X-rays were negative and he was diagnosed with just a bruise. He is hopeful of returning to the lineup Friday.

MEDICAL MATTERS: SS Asdrubal Cabrera (groin strain) pinch-hit for a second straight game and OF Steven Souza Jr. (sprained left wrist) advanced to taking swings against low-speed pitching in the batting cage, leaving Cash hopeful both will be back in the lineup Friday at Baltimore.

Cabrera's absence in the field has been noticeable given the play of Tim Beckham and Nick Franklin in his place, but Cash said they wanted to be cautious. "Not having him out there the last two days, it just shows what he brings to our club," Cash said.

LHP Matt Moore (Tommy John surgery) today makes his second extended spring training start, against the Red Sox in Fort Myers, with plans to next start a 30-day maximum rehab assignment. RHP Kirby Yates (strained right pec) will follow Moore and make his first game appearance.

BALFOUR DONE? RHP Grant Balfour is said to be leaning toward retirement after opting out of his contract with Triple-A Durham.

Balfour, 37, re-signed with the Rays shortly after being released (and paid the remainder of his $7 million salary). He didn't show much improvement, logging nine hits, four walks and 11 strikeouts in 92/3 innings over eight games, clocking in the 90-91 mph range.

"Similar to what he was up here," Cash said. "No regression, but I don't think he totally felt like he had got back what he was looking for."

ABOUT TUESDAY NIGHT: Cash said he stood by his harsh comments — though he hoped he didn't get fined for them — about some decisions by the umpires on the field and the replay crew in New York that he described after the game as "terrible" and "embarrassing."

Cash was most frustrated with a safe call at home that withstood a review even though C Rene Rivera said there was "no doubt" he blocked Seth Smith off the plate; and the call to award Joey Butler third rather than home when a foul call on an Evan Longoria drive down the leftfield line was changed to fair, noting that the fielder was on the ground and the ball rolling away.

MISCELLANY: The five-game skid is the Rays' longest since a 10-gamer last May-June. … The Mariners hadn't swept the Rays since August 2006, at the Trop since September 2000. … The Rays have been shut out an AL-high six times, 24 since the start of 2014.

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