PITTSBURGH — The Rays welcomed RHP Brad Boxberger (right) back to their bullpen Thursday, unsure what to expect given his extended injury absences the past two seasons but hoping he can return to his stellar 2014-15 form.
"It's the piece we're missing the most, a solid back-end-of-the-bullpen guy," 3B Evan Longoria said. "Like I've said 50 times, we've been piecing it together and the guys have been doing a good job, but they're asking a lot of them, and we've had some inexperience down there.
"If we can add the guy we know that he can be, it just gives us a bunch more options. You feel like that bridge to (closer Alex) Colome is a lot more sturdy, and the rest of the guys we have down there you can kind of mix and match in the earlier innings and just get to that."
The key question is whether Boxberger can regain that form, having been limited to 27 games in 2016 due to core muscle surgery and an oblique strain, and missing the first half of this season rehabbing a spring flexor injury.
Boxberger said he is fully healthy, feeling good and confident he can. "Absolutely," he said. "My goal is to be back to that and even better."
Manager Kevin Cash is hopeful, acknowledging the lost 1½ seasons and saying "we're optimistic that maybe he can come in there and help."
RHP Danny Farquhar was designated for assignment to make room for Boxberger, Cash saying it was a tough call between several candidates (such as RHP Jumbo Diaz), with Farquhar (2-2, 4.11) "more odd man out than anything."
Corey Dickerson moved into the lead Thursday afternoon among designated hitters for the AL All-Star team, with online fan voting ending at midnight and results, and full rosters, announced Sunday night. Dickerson was appreciative of the support — thanking family, teammates and Rays staffers for spreading a good word — but not making any assumptions: "You just never know what could happen, it's not for me to say. I'm wishful thinking and thankful for all the people that have voted."
Triple-A Durham RHP Brent Honeywell was named to the U.S. team and Class A Bowling Green SS Lucius Fox the World squad for the All-Star Futures Game on July 9 in Miami. Honeywell is 7-6, 4.87 in 13 starts since his promotion from Double A. Fox, acquired with Matt Duffy from the Giants in the 2016 Matt Moore trade, is hitting .285 with a .360 on-base percentage and 22 steals. Durham manager Jared Sandberg was chosen as first base coach for the U.S. team. … Durham C Mike Marjama, RHP Andrew Kittredge and INFs Willy Adames and Patrick Leonard were named to the International League for the July 12 Triple-A All-Star Game.
• Top draft pick 1B/LHP Brendan McKay (left) added the USA Baseball Golden Spikes award as the top amateur player to his collection of hardware.
• Derek Norris, designated for assignment Saturday, cleared release waivers and became a free agent.
• Rookie RHP Jake Faria figures it's "kind of an even split" in who has an advantage as he faces the Orioles tonight for a second straight start, getting a no-decision for six innings Saturday.
• CF Mallex Smith was out of the lineup for a rest day, with Steven Souza Jr. starting in center.
• Rookie LHP Adam Kolarek, a Baltimore area native, has heard from plenty of relatives and friends planning to be at Camden Yards this weekend.