HOUSTON — The depth of the Rays' bullpen will be further tested with top lefty reliever Jake McGee sidelined for potentially the rest of the season due to a meniscus tear in his left knee that requires surgery today.
"It (stinks), that's probably the easiest way to put it," All-Star reliever RHP Brad Boxberger said. "We lost (RHP Kevin) Jepsen earlier (when he was traded to the Twins on July 31), and now we lose McGee. It's definitely going to be a different look in the bullpen for the rest of the year."
Manager Kevin Cash said the Rays will continue to make late innings a group effort, with LHP Xavier Cedeno and RHPs Alex Colome, Steve Geltz and Brandon Gomes likely to inherit some of McGee's high-leverage duty. LHP Enny Romero, who was sent down Tuesday night, was recalled, with McGee going on the disabled list. Romero had returned to Triple-A Durham on Wednesday, and the Rays had him fly back to Houston on Thursday.
"We'll kind of mix and match, kind of as we've done all year long," Cash said, "just with some different names."
Cash also said the absence of McGee won't make Boxberger, who entered Thursday second in the American League with 29 saves, the automatic closer, either. "If we think it's best for 'Box' to come in and get three big outs in the eighth, then we'll do that," he said. And if they do, Cash said, he will pick one from the others to close out the game. "We could see anybody in the seventh, eighth or ninth inning," he said.
McGee, known for his overpowering fastball, felt something give in the knee on the second-to-last delivery of his season-high 33-pitch outing Tuesday against the Astros. The Rays hoped he would need just a few days off, but they sent him back to St. Petersburg for a Thursday morning MRI exam and a visit with team orthopedist Dr. Koco Eaton, and the tear was diagnosed.
After today's surgery, the Rays will have a better sense if it's possible for McGee — 1-2, with six saves and a 2.57 ERA — to return before the Oct. 4 end of the regular season. He missed the first month of the season recovering from December elbow surgery. "It's frustrating," Cash said. "Jake is such a big part of our bullpen, part of our team. … Hopefully we'll see him back."
SMYLY A GO: LHP Drew Smyly is hoping tonight's second start after his three-month DL stint for shoulder issues goes better than his first on Sunday, when he allowed five Rangers runs and lasted only four innings.
"I'm healthy, and I feel good, my arm feels good," Smyly said. "I had a bad game. I'm looking forward to Oakland. I'm not thinking about the injury; I'm not thinking about Texas. It's one game. People have bad games. Hopefully I can pitch better. That's what it comes down to. … And I think with more repetitions and more bullpens and more games, I can only go up."
Smyly's fastball was clocked mostly in the 88-91 mph range on the stadium board, which Cash said is known to be a few mphs slow. But Smyly said velocity isn't as much a concern as command and that getting his curveball under control will be a big plus.
ABOUT WEDNESDAY NIGHT: After Boxberger gave up a one-run lead in the ninth against the Astros, the Rays ended up walkoff losers for the second straight night and MLB-most 10th time overall. Rookie RHP Matt Andriese allowed an RBI single to Carlos Correa that scored Colby Rasmus, who drew a leadoff walk and went to third on Jose Altuve's single. … Cash said he understood the morning-after debate over not walking the hot-hitting Correa but said Thursday he still felt it was the right move not to take away Andriese's margin for error by loading the bases. He did say if Andriese had fallen behind 2-and-0, he would have put Correa on. … Cash also said it would have been "absolutely ridiculous" to extend Colome into the ninth after he worked a dazzling eighth, striking out Houston' 1-2-3 hitters on 10 pitches. … Cedeno set a team record with his 15th straight appearance with no walks and no runs.
MISCELLANY: The Rays' 10 walkoff losses are one shy of the team record set in 2002; Wednesday marked the eighth time they've had consecutive walkoff losses, the second time this season (July 3-4 at Yankees). … .The Rays are a majors-worst 2-10 in extra innings and have lost a team-record-tying eight straight in extras, the longest such streak in the majors since the Mariners lost eight in 2013. … The Rays' 22-52 record in Oakland is their worst in any AL road city.