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Rays to ease Brad Boxberger back into closer role

The Rays’ Brad Boxberger, fresh off the disabled list, is expected to be eased back into his closer’s role. He had an AL-high 41 saves last season.
Published May 31, 2016

KANSAS CITY — The Rays see RHP Brad Boxberger's return from the disabled list as the kind of move that will make their bullpen deeper and better.

And in no way divided by any closer controversy.

Manager Kevin Cash made it clear before Monday's game that it was merely a matter of when, and not if, Boxberger reclaims his closer's job from Alex Colome, who did quite well in his absence.

The only hesitation is Cash's "perfect world" plan to find a "soft landing" for Boxberger to make his season debut, having been sidelined since March 17 core muscle repair surgery. Had the Rays not tied the score, he would have worked the eighth Monday.

"I think it's fair to say we would probably work Boxy back into the closer's role than stick him right into it," Cash said.

Players don't usually lose their jobs due to injury, and Boxberger certainly has the credentials from last season, having led the American League with 41 saves, albeit also with six blown saves, 10 losses and a 3.71 ERA.

And as impressive as Colome was in his stead, going 12-for-12 in saves with a 1.23 ERA and 18 of 20 appearances scoreless, and as much as he enjoyed the pressure and responsibility, he said he has zero issue handing the job back to Boxberger.

"I had his spot right now because of the injury, and now he is well and he comes back and takes his spot," Colome said. "If they put (a different) guy in there maybe I'd feel bad about it. If … he comes and takes his spot, I do what I have to do. I don't know why I would feel bad. We're teammates, we're friends."

Plus Colome said he will stick with the same approach: "If I throw in the eighth or the seventh, I have to think like it's the same situation and do my job. I don't have to change my mind about anything."

Boxberger said the right things Monday, that he is just happy to be back in the bullpen after going through the recovery and rehab process, which will include ongoing pregame conditioning and maintenance work.

"I don't have any expectations right now," he said. "I'm just expecting myself to go out there every day and take the ball in whatever situation it is. If that's the ninth, great. And if not, we'll go from there, and just take every day as a new day and be able to help my team in any situation I can."

What matters most, Cash said, is that the bullpen overall will be better, with the potential in protecting leads to go from RHP Erasmo Ramirez to Colome to Boxberger.

"We're obviously very excited to have Boxy back," Cash said. "I think we've all seen over the last couple weeks, a month, we're missing one guy down there that can really pitch some big innings for us. And we know he's very capable of doing that."

PEARCE OUT: 2B Steve Pearce left the game after eight innings due to right elbow irritation. He said it has been an issue for "a while," but it hadn't been an issue on a swing until Monday. He said he expects to be able to play tonight.

REHAB REPORT: 2B Logan Forsythe hit off a tee at Tropicana Field, the next step in his rehab from a fractured left shoulder, eyeing a mid June return. … Cash said the right pec strain that landed RHP Ryan Webb on the DL Sunday is not expected "to be a long term thing." … LHP Jonny Venters, a potential mid-summer addition to the bullpen after three Tommy John surgeries, continues to pitch well in extended spring training, clocked Monday at 93 mph.

MISCELLANY: RHP Matt Andriese became the first Rays pitcher to commit two balks in one game. … Cash said he wanted to keep Taylor Motter involved, which is why Motter started at shortstop ahead of lefty-swinging Brad Miller against Royals RHP Ian Kennedy. … Both teams wore camo-style hats and jerseys as part of the MLB-wide salute to Memorial Day. … LHP Drew Smyly, who starts tonight, said he considered it "unlucky" to be one of two pitchers in the majors (along with ex-Rays RHP James Shields, now with the Padres) to have six losses and an ERA under 4.00.

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