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Tampa Bay Rays notebook: Closer call will be based on matchups in Kyle Farnsworth's absence

Josh Lueke, above, comes up from Triple A to join a gaggle of relievers looking to fill the void of closer Kyle Farnsworth.

JAMES BORCHUCK | Times

Josh Lueke, above, comes up from Triple A to join a gaggle of relievers looking to fill the void of closer Kyle Farnsworth.

ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays made the expected move official, placing closer Kyle Farnsworth on the 15-day disabled list Thursday and calling up right-handed reliever Josh Lueke.

Farnsworth has a right elbow strain that will require rest, possibly up to six weeks. In his absence, the Rays are planning to use a matchup arrangement at the end of games, with Joel Peralta the likely first option, but Fernando Rodney, J.P. Howell, Jake McGee and eventually Wade Davis all in the mix.

Lueke, 27, was acquired in a trade with Seattle for C John Jaso. Lueke worked 25 games over two stints during his first season in the majors, going 1-1 with a 6.06 ERA but improving as he went. He didn't have an impressive spring and was optioned to Triple A on March 23.

RHP Brandon Gomes would have been the likely choice, but the Rays wanted to give him more time to regain velocity and command as he was coming back from offseason back surgery.

STRONG SHIELDS: RHP James Shields is right where he wants to be, and where he has been more than any other Ray: on the mound for his fourth opening day start.

"I'm going to have the same nerves I always have; just kind of anxious," said Shields, 30. "I'm really excited to get out there, especially coming off a good season last year. Hopefully I can continue this little roll."

Shields knows last year will be tough to top; he had 11 complete games and finished third in the AL Cy Young voting.

"That's an insane number," Yankees LHP CC Sabathia said.

Shields said, "I'll tell you what, if I get half as many (complete games) as last year, I'll definitely be ecstatic about it."

But after having what Shields considered a great spring (3-0, 2.08 ERA), he said his arm, body and pitches are ready heading into today's matchup against the Yankees, who know him well.

"Outstanding pitcher," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "A four-pitch guy, really knows how to move the ball around, his changeup is one of the best changeups in the game. He holds runners. … There's nothing this kid can't do. And he's proved it year after year. He's an ace."

PEna PERSPECTIVE: Despite 1B Carlos Peña's spring training numbers (.107 batting average with 23 strikeouts in 20 games), manager Joe Maddon said he likes his swing, and Peña believes he's "right where I want to be."

"I feel extremely strong, healthy," Peña said. "Joe and I talk about it all the time; we know what spring training is for. It'd be so silly for me to grab spring training numbers and put them on my back and carry them with me to the park. … That's not fair to my teammates, and definitely not fair to me."

LEANING LEFT: The Rays claimed LHP John Gaub off waivers from the Cubs and added him to their 40-man roster.

Gaub, 26, spent most of last season at Triple-A Iowa, posting a 4-4 record with seven saves and a 3.42 ERA in 55 1/3 innings over 50 games. He appeared in four games for the Cubs (6.75 ERA).

Gaub fills the spot on the 40-man roster created when RHP Matt Bush was moved to the restricted list after his DUI-related accident.

Motorcyclist improves: Tony Tufano, 72, injured in the Bush case, is now able to talk and walk, and he could be moved out of the intensive care unit as early as today, according to daughter in law Shannon Moore.

No tickets left: Saturday's game has also sold out.

Tampa Bay Rays notebook: Closer call will be based on matchups in Kyle Farnsworth's absence

04/05/12 [Last modified: Thursday, April 5, 2012 8:46pm]

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