Rays debut dream come true for C.J. Riefenhauser

Published April 20, 2014

ST. PETERSBURG — First, LHP C.J. Riefenhauser couldn't say anything when Triple-A Durham manager Charlie Montoyo called at midnight Friday with words of his first promotion to the big leagues.

"Speechless," Riefenhauser said. "That was the only word that came to mind. I couldn't even process it all at the time."

Then he had plenty of talking to do, calling his parents at their New York home and telling them to book flights for themselves, and their three other kids, to Tampa for Saturday morning.

Then it all hit him: The kid who grew up taking the train to Yankee Stadium his whole life to watch his favorite team a dozen times a year was going to the big leagues to face those same Yankees, even if may be just for a short stay.

"That's when I started crying, and that's when I was just like, this is really a dream come true," he said.

Riefenhauser, 24, has worked his way up, from a 20th-round draft pick through each level of the minors, off to a solid start at Triple-A Durham this year.

Then, with two outs in the seventh inning Saturday, there he was on the mound, encouraged by RHP Joel Peralta to throw strikes and by C Ryan Hanigan to breathe.

Riefenhauser got out Alfonso Soriano to end that inning, then three more Yankees in order in the eighth, throwing 10 of 12 pitches for strikes.

"It was unbelievable,'' he said. "Great feeling, great outing. It was awesome.''

Riefenhauser was summoned to provide a fresh arm for the bullpen. RHP Brad Boxberger was sent down after working two innings Friday and making an impression on manager Joe Maddon, who said: "Boxberger is a major-league pitcher, period.''

Riefenhauser may not stay long as RHP Juan Carlos Oviedo appears set to come off the disabled list Tuesday.

JENNINGS LIMITED: CF Desmond Jennings is bothered by groin soreness that is expected to keep him out of the lineup until at least Tuesday. Jennings was first affected diving for a ball Monday in Baltimore but stayed in and played Wednesday. But when he was still sore Thursday, the Rays decided to limit him to DH duty, then to pinch-hitting (and running for him), concerned about the impact of the Tropicana Field turf. "We don't think it's anything serious, but I just don't want to push him right now, especially on this stuff," Maddon said.

HELLICKSON SETBACK: RHP Jeremy Hellickson had light soreness during his rehabilitation from arthroscopic right elbow surgery and is taking three days off, with a plan to play catch today to see how he feels. Hellickson had hoped to throw off the mound for the first time Tuesday, so this delay would seem to set him back at least a week and push his return to the rotation into June. He has been targeting June 1.

HELPING HAND: RHP Chris Archer gave major credit for Saturday's strong outing to Hanigan, who allowed him one day to reflect on his last outing then three days talking about things he could do differently. "He kept me in check with everything,'' Archer said.

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ROTATION SHUFFLE: The Rays made a slight adjustment to their reconstructed pitching rotation, with LHP David Price starting Tuesday against the Twins — to keep him on his normal every-fifth-day schedule — and RHP Jake Odorizzi moving back to Wednesday and LHP Erik Bedard to Thursday, both against the Twins.

RHP Nathan Karns, likely the next starter in line for a callup, had a second straight strong start for Durham Friday, allowing two hits over seven shutout innings, striking out nine.

MISCELLANY: Thursday's flight to Chicago will mark the first themed road trip: "Express Yourself With a Hat 2.0."… The Rays are 8-2 when playing on Easter, winning their past three.