Rays Tales: Brad Boxberger tops list of most significant injuries

Published April 23 2017
Updated April 23 2017

The late Friday move to place struggling LHP Xavier Cedeno on the disabled list gave the Rays a share of the major-league lead in a category they want no part of, with 10 players shelved due to injury.

As with the Dodgers and Rangers, who also started Saturday with double-digit DLs, not all of the injured Rays are creating major voids. C Wilson Ramos (knee) was signed knowing he would miss at least the first couple of months, RHP Kevin Gadea (elbow) was a Rule 5 pick they were going to send back, RHP Nathan Eovaldi is basically on a 2018 futures deal while he recovers from Tommy John surgery.

Of the other seven, here is whom the Rays miss most:

1. RHP Brad Boxberger (above). Coming off a season lost to injuries and inconsistency (4.31 ERA in 27 games), he was counted on to be a dominant force helping Alex Colome in the back end of a bullpen needing help.

Injury: Flexor strain.

Likely return: At best, sometime in June.

2. SS Matt Duffy. Tim Beckham hasn't been horrible in his place. But in trading LHP Matt Moore for Duffy (and prospects), the Rays were counting on adding a smooth defender and a contact-oriented hitter, which would help a lineup that leads the AL in strikeouts.

Injury: Heel surgery recovery.

Likely return: Mid May, maybe?

3. LHP Xavier Cedeno. As badly as he pitched, it might not seem like a big loss. But he is the only experienced lefty reliever the Rays have (including Triple A), and that makes it a big problem. And no matter what's said, forearm tightness is rarely not serious.

Injury: Forearm tightness.

Likely return: Could be a while.

4. RHP Jake Odorizzi. Sure, Erasmo Ramirez filled in well Thursday, and Odorizzi could be back by the end of this week. But starting Ramirez put a further strain on a shorthanded bullpen, with Chase Whitley taking his role.

Injury: Hamstring strain.

Likely return: As soon as Wednesday.

5. OF Colby Rasmus. Others have done well enough that his absence hasn't been glaring, but his power (averaging 21 homers over past five seasons) and strong outfield defense made him a major part of a planned lineup improvement.

Injury: Hip surgery recovery.

Likely return: End of this week.

6. OF Mallex Smith. He made a big impact through the first 10 games with his speed and energy at the plate, on the bases and in the field. Shane Peterson has been filling in, but the roster spot seems likely to go to Rasmus.

Injury: Hamstring strain.

Likely return: Midweek if they want him.

7. RHP Shawn Tolleson. He was signed with the hope he would return to his 2015 35-save form, but ongoing back issues, then a forearm strain have made it a question if they'll get anything out of him.

Injury: Flexor strain.

Likely return: At best, sometime in June.

An interesting take

As with many topics, RHP Chris Archer has some interesting thoughts on the popular push — especially around Jackie Robinson Day — to get more "Black-Americans" playing baseball, and it's not what you might think.

Noting how Robinson broke the total color barrier, Archer is pleased with the overall diversity in the game but said of increasing the percentage of black players from its current 8 percent: "It would be cool, but it's not like they're being neglected in the world. Because a lot of it comes down to choice, a kid or (their parent) chooses to put them in a certain sport."

Plus, he said, "there are other opportunities in the world other than baseball for people. No. 1, education, and then all the other sports. So it would be cool to have more Black American players, but are people going to the NBA like really pushing White American players? I don't know. Even if there are Caucasians, there are Europeans, like (Dallas Mavericks star) Dirk Nowitzki."

Archer, who is biracial, did compliment MLB and the players' union for building inner-city facilities and coaching coaches as well as players, but he said that effort will take about 10 years to have an impact.

The Rays have four black players on their big-league roster/DL in Archer, Tim Beckham, Mallex Smith and Rickie Weeks, though no black coaches.

Some things we think we know

• With NL-rules games at Miami May 1-2, the Rays could be tempted to add another position player. But with one — ONE! — day off in a 34-day stretch from Thursday until June 1, they may be more concerned with having the extra arm to keep their already shorthanded bullpen fresh.

• OF Mallex Smith (hamstring) could be ready to come off the DL early this week, but as impressive as he was, he may be headed to Triple A. That's because OF Colby Rasmus (hip surgery) is targeting his debut for the end of the week, and both fill the role currently held by OF Shane Peterson. Since Peterson has to be exposed to waivers before being sent down, it seems to make more sense in terms of asset management to send down Smith and keep Peterson until they are sure Rasmus is ready.

Rays rumblings

Shouldn't there now be some kind of effort, orchestrated or organic, for Trop outfield fans to yell "I got it" for every popup after last week's excuses/comments by Tigers manager Brad Ausmus? The Phantom Shouters? … Home attendance through 11 games is down slightly from last year (averaging 16,849 through Friday), but weekdays, when they have assorted discount deals, are up 17 percent (14,432 through Thursday). … Noting the "mild disappointments" of taking high school hitters Tim Beckham and Delmon Young atop the draft, Baseball America's latest projection has the Rays using the No. 4 pick on June 12 on Vanderbilt RHP Kyle Wright. … Yep, that was Rays 3B Evan Longoria and former teammate David Price exchanging tweets last week about breast pumps. Price and wife Tiffany need one as they are close to welcoming son Xavier; Price bought a pump for Longoria and now-wife Jaime Edmondson's first child in 2013. … Former Ray Taylor Motter has already hit four homers for the Mariners, has MLB's second-highest exit velocity (97.1 mph) and inspired a between-innings "Hair Flip cam" at Safeco Field. … Double-A Montgomery INF Michael Russell, a 2014 fifth-rounder, made fangraphs.com's list of the game's top five "most compelling fringe prospects." … Cool to see longtime Rays TV man Todd Kalas back at the Trop this weekend; weird to see him working on the visitors side. … Longoria said his $500,000 donation for a cool new climbing exhibit at St. Petersburg's Great Explorations Children's Museum grew from a smaller concept and was made as he "kind of renegotiated" his annual charitable contributions to the Rays Baseball Foundation that are part of his long-term deal. … Trop official scorer Bill Mathews will be inducted May 7 into the Athletic Hall of Fame at Eckerd College, where he played then coached for 24 seasons. Hoops coach Tommy Ryan goes in, too. … FanRag Sports' Jon Heyman suggests that when healthy, RHP Brad Boxberger could be targeted by the closer-needy Nats, though it seems hard to think they can wait into June. … Ex-Rays manager Joe Maddon's Respect 90 Foundation, now executive-directed by former Rays PR chief Rick Vaughn, launched its respect90.org website. … With Josh Hamilton's career potentially over, it's still hard not to wonder what might have been had he stayed clean and stayed with the Rays. … No surprise that no Tampa Bay players were on MLB's list of 20 most-sold jerseys, but here's a question: If Buster Posey had the same career for the small-market Rays as he did for the Giants, would he still rank eighth highest?