KANSAS CITY — So much for that deeper and better Rays bullpen.
All-Star RH closer Brad Boxberger's return turned out to be a one-night stand, as he will be out at least a month, and possibly two, after further evaluation Wednesday revealed a left oblique strain.
Boxberger was making his season debut Tuesday, having recovered and rehabbed from March 17 core muscle repair surgery, when he felt something grab on his left side after about a dozen pitches.
He was sent home Wednesday and examined by Dr. Sanjay Menon, part of the team medical staff, and given a cortisone injection. The Rays will have a better idea of his timetable based on how he responds after the first week.
"Very unfortunate injury," manager Kevin Cash said.
The Rays had planned for Boxberger, who led the AL in saves last year, to move back into the closer's role, with Alex Colome, who was 12-for-12 in saves as his replacement, joining Erasmo Ramirez as primary setup men.
But with Boxberger likely out until after the All-Star break, the team likely will go back to Plan B, with Ramirez setting up Colome. "When we had a lead to protect, it was pretty obvious who we were going to," Cash said.
The Rays also will use improving LHP Xavier Cedeno in high-leverage situations. Cash said they need to get LHP Enny Romero "going again" after a few rough outings. Romero struggled again Wednesday, loading the bases against the Royals with no outs in the seventh though yielding just one run.
Also, Cash praised rookie RHPs Ryan Garton and Tyler Sturdevant for throwing strikes, saying it's "really impressive" and will warrant additional opportunities.
SORE ELBOW, HELPING HAND: With leading hitter and fill-in 2B Steve Pearce's right elbow increasingly sore, the team filled Boxberger's roster spot by recalling INF Tim Beckham, who can provide middle infield depth.
Pearce was not in the lineup Wednesday (with Taylor Motter starting at second) with the idea that some rest will help, but he insisted he was available to pinch-hit. "They're going to have to chain me down to keep me out," he said.
Cash said Pearce's status to return to the lineup will be determined on a daily basis.
"We've got to let the elbow calm down," Cash said. "It's very irritable right now."
Beckham was sent to Triple A on May 25 when the Rays added bullpen help and said he didn't see it coming, despite a .185 average and sporadic playing time. "I was feeling good at the plate, so I was definitely surprised to be sent down," he said.
MILLER TIME: SS Brad Miller has moved on from his rough start and showing some extra-base power in the process.
On Tuesday, he logged his fourth game of the season with a double and a triple, the first player to have that many in his team's first 50 games since 1959, when Vada Pinson did so for the Reds.
No other player in the majors has done it more than once. And for further context, consider that the Rays have never had a player with more than three such games in an entire season.
"Feeling like I'm putting together some good at-bats,'' he said. "Just got to keep it rolling up, keep preparing the right way, keep showing up and playing.
"My mind-set going into the box is that I want to drive the ball and do damage and hit the gaps and run. So it's good when you are able to do that.''
REHAB REPORT: 2B Logan Forsythe (left shoulder fracture) continues to progress toward a return on the June 10-19 homestand, hitting again off a tee at the Trop and advancing to flip tosses today. … LHP Jonny Venters (third Tommy John surgery) is expected to join advanced Class A Charlotte, having thrown well in extended spring.
MISCELLANY: DH Brandon Guyer was hit by a pitch for the MLB-most 15th time this year, and 50th for his career. … The Rays' 71 homers were the most through 50 games for any team in MLB history without at least one player in double-digits. … Cash went to an extreme to try to snap the team's skid, wearing his jersey in the dugout rather than his usual pullover.