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Rays expect Brad Boxberger to fill in as closer

Brad Boxberger, who pitched a 1-2-3 first inning against Red Sox starters, says he’d be eager for a chance to fill in at closer.
Published Mar. 30, 2015

FORT MYERS — With returning closer Jake McGee sidelined for the first month of the season as he recovers from left elbow surgery, the Rays say they plan to use several pitchers in that role.

But expect RHP Brad Boxberger to get a significant share.

"He will be in a lot of meaningful situations," manager Kevin Cash said. "With some other guys, but for what Box did last year and the confidence we have in him, I would definitely anticipate him pitching in those leverage situations."

Since the Rays had a bullpen day planned, Boxberger asked to start Sunday's 3-2 10-inning loss so he could face the top Boston hitters.

He showed well, retiring Mookie Betts on an infield grounder, getting Dustin Pedroia looking at a high strike three and shattering David Ortiz's bat with a nasty down and away fastball.

Boxberger, who converted two saves in five chances last year while posting a 2.37 ERA, .155 opponents average and 104 strikeouts in 642/3 innings, said he welcomes the chance for more.

"If the opportunity arises I'll take it and run and do what I can," he said. "All of us in the pen are fighting to get that spot."

BALFOUR SET: RHP Grant Balfour made his third appearance since rejoining the Rays following a two week-plus stay in Australia for family matters and said he will be ready to start the season next week. Cash agreed.

"I got three outs today, I can't see why I can't get three outs then," Balfour said.

SMYLY EYEING APRIL: LHP Drew Smyly (shoulder tendinitis) is still limited to bullpen sessions but said he is confident of rejoining the rotation in April.

Smyly, who had his fourth bullpen session Sunday morning in Port Charlotte, said he is progressing daily and expects to throw batting practice this week.

"I'm very hopeful that I'll be pitching in April, for sure," he said. "Something would have to go wrong, there'd be a step backward for me not to pitch in April I feel like."

NOT-SO-MINOR MATTER: OF Andrew Toles, the Rays' 2013 minor-league player of the year, was released. Toles missed two-plus months last season at advanced Class A Charlotte due to what the team said were "personal issues." Team officials declined comment on the reason for his release.

GIVE AND TAKE: The Rays are looking to accommodate players in camp who aren't in their plans and have out clauses, as INF Juan Francisco does on April 5.

"We've got some guys that we signed and we want to do them right and communicate as soon as possible if they're not (going to be) with us and there's opportunity elsewhere," Cash said. "We're not looking to hold anybody back from being in the big leagues with other teams or anything like that."

MEDICAL MATTERS: RHP Alex Cobb (forearm tendinitis) said he felt good the day after his first throwing session and — after being off Sunday, though with Grand Prix starter duties in St. Petersburg — will play catch again today. … RHP Alex Colome, on the 15-day DL due to pneumonia, will advance to a 50-pitch bullpen session Tuesday.

GAME ACTION: Cash praised OF Steven Souza Jr. for hustling, and 3B coach Charlie Montoyo for sending him as he scored from first on 3B Evan Longoria's single to right. … C Rene Rivera had an RBI single. … The Rays (11-11-1) gave up the tying run in the eighth after errors by RHP Jhan Marinez and minor-league OF Thomas Milone on a comebacker. … After Rays minor-league OF Cade Gotta was thrown out by OF Rusney Castillo trying to tag up in the 10th, the Red Sox won it when Castillo singled and scored on Deven Marrero's two-out single.

MISCELLANY: The Rays are the featured team at 10 tonight on MLB Network's 30 Clubs in 30 Days.

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