DUNEDIN — RHP Brad Boxberger said he "definitely" will be ready to pitch by opening day. The calendar and the Rays training staff might say otherwise.
Boxberger, who is expected to be the setup man and fill-in closer, has not pitched this spring because of a lat/back injury. He did pitch live batting practice Saturday at Port Charlotte and said other than his timing being a little off, he felt good health-wise. He expects to pitch Tuesday in a minor-league game.
It's hard to imagine Boxberger getting enough outings over the final 12 days of camp to be ready by the April 2 opener, even though he needs only to build himself for one inning of work.
Manager Kevin Cash admitted after Saturday's 3-2 win over the Blue Jays that Boxberger is "cutting it close."
"We'll just have to wait and see," Cash said. "The last thing we want him to do is feel like he's got to rush something. We want Box healthy for most of the season. If he's a little behind, we can deal with that. I think we all saw what took place when that didn't happen last year. We got to get him healthy."
That guy Bauers
INF/OF Jake Bauers homered again, driving a ball into the netting that protects the offices behind the rightfield wall at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium. It was his team-leading fourth home run of the spring. He is tied with 1B Rickie Weeks for the team lead in RBIs with 10.
"This is actually really unusual for me," Bauers said. "I'm not usually a spring training guy, but obviously, I made it a point this offseason, coming into big-league camp … just to try and be comfortable and be ready, and I kind of took a little more swings and a little more time to get ready. So I think I'm a little further ahead than I normally would be."
Manager Kevin Cash said he is more impressed with the way Bauers works an at-bat than how far the home runs have traveled. His tape-measure home run in Friday's game followed a streak of five walks over two games. Then Bauers drew a walk in his next trip to the plate.
The rookie is earning rave reviews from his teammates, witnessed by this tweet from CF Kevin Kiermaier: "To all the baseball fans out there..remember the name Jake Bauers..dude is an absolute stud. Show hair. Show swing. Very impressive"
What about Chase?
RHP Chase Whitley, competing for a spot in the bullpen, pitched four scoreless innings Saturday.
"You know, we're not ruling out him starting, either," manager Kevin Cash said. "It depends on how the numbers and how the injuries pan out, but right now, we saw last year what he can do coming out of the bullpen. There's a lot of value to that."
Game stuff: Rays 3, Blue Jays 2
CF Dayron Varona followed an opposite-field triple by 3B Patrick Leonard in the fifth inning with an opposite-field double to score what proved to be the difference in the game. … Jake Bauers put the Rays ahead 2-0 with his fourth-inning home run. … RHP Austin Pruitt turned in another strong outing with a spring-high three innings.
RHP Chris Archer has a flight booked this morning for Los Angeles, where he will rejoin Team USA if it beat the Dominican late Saturday night in the World Baseball Classic.
Times staff writer Marc Topkin contributed to this report.