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Rays' Boxberger remains confident through rough stretch

Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Brad Boxberger works against the Oakland Athletics during the ninth inning of a baseball game Friday, Aug. 21, 2015, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot) OAS117
Published Aug. 23, 2015

OAKLAND, Calif. — RHP Brad Boxberger said his struggles in closing out games over the past week have been a challenge, but he remains confident. And Rays manager Kevin Cash said he has no plans to give Boxberger a break or change the way he is being used.

"It's all part of the game," Boxberger said. "It's part of the situation I have myself in. I'd rather be doing this than anything else. It's just a test for me to keep going and for us to keep winning games."

Cash said Boxberger, who needed a season-high 33 pitches Friday to navigate a messy ninth for his 30th save after blowing a save and a game in his two previous outings, is handling the rough stretch well.

"As good as Box was early on, there were times throughout the season it looked like it came really easy for him," Cash said. "It's not coming as easy. He's a guy that's still fairly young and obviously new to this being his first year pitching in that role.

"It's a good thing that he had so much success early on that he could kind of build off that and handle this a little bit. And I think he's handled it well."

Boxberger, who ranks second in the American League in saves behind Twins LHP Glen Perkins, is the fifth Rays reliever to reach 30. He leads major-league relievers with nine losses, six on walkoffs.

SWITCHED UP: The Rays were prepared for the unusual challenge of facing A's switch-pitcher Pat Venditte, Cash saying the key is not rushing any decisions since Venditte is required to indicate which arm he is going to use against each batter.

So Friday, Cash made sure Venditte was going to throw lefty before lifting lefty-swinging Grady Sizemore then sent up switch-hitter Daniel Nava to pinch-hit. Venditte stuck with left-handed, so Nava hit right-handed.

Nava had to get ready to hit either way, having both helmets and two bats ready in the dugout and wearing a leg guard on his right leg and an elbow pad on his left so he would have to change only one when Venditte declared.

"You just have to be ready for anything," Nava said. "It was unique because most of the time you pinch-hit, you know who you're facing. That time you didn't."

With all that went into the at-bat, Nava said it was disappointing to fly out. The Rays got to him Saturday during their ninth-inning rally.

Cash said the switch-pitcher concept is interesting, joking: "I don't know why we don't have a couple guys like that."

GO-GO GOMES: RHP Brandon Gomes isn't too caught up in the novelty but said retiring 26 straight batters — one shy of a reliever's "perfect game" — over nine appearances through Friday was positive reinforcement for changes he made to his delivery.

"I'm just glad my mechanics are back where they need to be and I'm helping do my part down in the bullpen, like I was early in the year," Gomes said. "For whatever reason they kind of got off a little bit in late June/early July and now I'm back focused on getting extension again, which is making everything a little sharper."

RHP Steve Geltz earlier had a streak of 32 straight retired.

NOT-SO-MINOR MATTERS: LHP Matt Moore was on point in a dazzling fourth start since his demotion to Triple-A Durham, striking out 16 in six innings, though he left trailing 2-1. … RHP Jose Dominguez, designated for assignment last Sunday, cleared waivers and was outrighted back to Durham. "It's a good thing," Cash said. "He's a big power arm, this gives him some more chances to get some consistency." … INF Jake Elmore picked up a win for the Bulls after pitching the 14th inning Friday.

MISCELLANY: LF Desmond Jennings became the first Ray to drive in all the runs (three total) in back-to-back wins and the first big-leaguer to do so, per the Elias Sports Bureau, since Cody Ross for the Giants in May 2011. … A scoring change from Friday gave Sizemore an error in rightfield and took a hit away from A's C Josh Phegley. … The Rays will keep their rotation in order through Monday's off day, starting RHP Nathan Karns on Tuesday against Minnesota, followed by RHP Chris Archer and LHP Drew Smyly, who was much sharper Friday than in his return from the DL last Sunday.

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