PORT CHARLOTTE — Closer Brad Boxberger had no idea the "little twinge" he first felt in his hamstring during his March 6 spring debut would lead to core muscle repair surgery that will sideline him at least into May.
The right-hander does know he will do whatever he can to return as soon as possible.
"The better I feel, the faster it goes," Boxberger said Friday. "They said eight weeks (from the March 17 surgery), and that's probably about right to be back here in a big-league game. Those last couple of weeks will be kind of the teller of where I'm going to be as far as if I come back at eight weeks or a little bit earlier."
Boxberger returned to Port Charlotte on Tuesday to begin his physical therapy program, and he started light tossing Thursday, with an increase in activity as tolerable.
"It progresses kind of as the muscles feel well enough to do it," he said.
Boxberger said he initially assumed he had "tweaked something" and would be fine with a few days' rest. "Pitched through it the two outings, after that it didn't really get any better, didn't make any progress like a normal strain would have," he said. "Got the MRI done — it wasn't anything like we expected."
Boxberger was sent to Philadelphia to see noted specialist Dr. William Meyers, who diagnosed a tear in the adductor brevis muscle near the groin and recommended immediate surgery.
"It was going to be the same time missed rehabbing or surgery with a lot better percentage of recovery on the surgery … to have the peace of mind that the muscle is back where it needs to be and be good to go," Boxberger said.
The Rays plan to use a series of relievers to cover his closing duties.
ROSTER REDUCTION: The Rays trimmed the spring roster to 40 by reassigning to minor-league camp INF Juniel Querecuto and RHPs Kyle McPherson and Mark Sappington. Manager Kevin Cash said all three showed well, noting specifically the way Querecuto took advantage of opportunities, McPherson was healthy, Sappington improved over the last season.
PITCHING IN: LHP Matt Moore won't pitch Sunday against the Blue Jays because he is slated to face them for real on April 6, instead working an Easter morning minor-league intrasquad game that will feature several big-league hitters. … LHP Enny Romero had his first back-to-back outings, working a nine-pitch inning in a minor-league game the day after an impressive four-out (three-strikeout) outing against the Yankees in Tampa. … RHP Steve Geltz did him one better, throwing eight pitches to get three outs after working an inning Thursday. … LHP Xavier Cedeno and RHPs Alex Colome and Ryan Webb will throw in minor-league games today.
MEDICAL MATTERS: INF Tim Beckham hopes to be back in the lineup tonight after being hit on the right shin by a pitch Thursday against the Yankees left him bruised and sore.
GAME DETAILS: The Rays (10-10) lost 6-1 to the Twins as No. 2 starter Drew Smyly gave up three home runs — two to Trevor Plouffe — during a six-inning, 93-pitch outing that he was otherwise pleased with. … RF Steven Souza had the defensive highlight, a strike to second base to nail Eddie Rosario trying to stretch a single in the seventh. "Unbelievable," Cash said. "Maybe one of the best plays I've seen him make as a Ray." Cash praised Souza for his hard work on improving his throwing. … CF Brandon Guyer had his second spring homer. … The extremely available James Loney made a pair of nifty plays at first base. … The Rays were held to three hits over six innings by sharp Twins starter Ervin Santana.
MISCELLANY: Members of the Poynter Institute's Write Field program were in camp, participating in Cash's pregame interview. … Fox Sports Sun premieres its preseason special, hosted by Todd Kalas, after Sunday's game telecast.