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Rays hoping Pete Fairbanks steps in as Diego Castillo is sidelined

Rays notes | Tampa Bay’s highest-leverage reliever could be back from his groin issue in about 10 days.
Rays manager Kevin Cash is confident Pete Fairbanks, who pitched three times before being sidelined April 7 with a shoulder strain, will be ready to step in.
Rays manager Kevin Cash is confident Pete Fairbanks, who pitched three times before being sidelined April 7 with a shoulder strain, will be ready to step in. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]
Published May 6
Updated May 6

The return of Pete Fairbanks from the injured list was supposed to bolster the back end of the Rays’ bullpen, where Diego Castillo had been handling a large share of the high-leverage work that last year was shared three ways.

But as Fairbanks was activated before Wednesday’s game in Anaheim, Calif., Castillo was sidelined, placed on the 10-day injured list due to groin tightness.

Manager Kevin Cash said the Rays are “cautiously optimistic” the 10 days will be enough time to heal Castillo, who ranked second in the American League with seven saves (in nine chances), hadn’t allowed any inherited runners to score and had allowed 10 hits (though two homers) over 14-1/3 innings with 20 strikeouts.

“I think we caught it early enough,” Cash said. “He felt it a little bit the last time he pitched. Not totally sure if it had been something that had kind of crept in, but we’ll use this time to get him rested, off his feet, then get him back on a throwing program.”

Cash is confident Fairbanks, who pitched three times before being sidelined April 7 with a shoulder strain, will be ready to step in. Along with the others who have stepped up since they lost Nick Anderson, the third member of the high-leverage trio, late in spring training.

“We know we’ve had some key guys nicked up in the bullpen,” Cash said. “What Diego’s done to this point — he’s always been there the last three, four years, just been outstanding. I know he’s going to be down; we think it’s going to be a short period of time.

“But anytime you can add a guy like Pete Fairbanks that has been there, done that and really established himself as just a high-end reliever against righties and lefties, it helps a lot.”

Fan boy Fleming

Rays pitcher Josh Fleming (left) got to meet his all-time favorite player, Angels first baseman Albert Pujols before the May 5 game in Anaheim, Calif.
Rays pitcher Josh Fleming (left) got to meet his all-time favorite player, Angels first baseman Albert Pujols before the May 5 game in Anaheim, Calif. [ Special to the Times - Tampa Bay Rays ]

Josh Fleming will be all business when he pitches against Albert Pujols and the other Angels Thursday. He will pitch bulk innings behind opener Collin McHugh. But Wednesday, Fleming allowed himself some time to be a fanboy, getting the chance to meet and get a photo with Pujols, who is Fleming’s “favorite player of all time, and he will be forever.”

Fleming grew up in the St. Louis area as Pujols was starring for the Cardinals, and his fandom not just going to games— and the 2009 All-Star home run derby — to see the slugger, but hanging a Pujols poster in his bedroom (which is still there at his parents’ house) and wearing a Pujols jersey.

Fleming was hoping to get an autographed ball from Pujols and plans to have his parents ship down the jersey so he can get it signed when the Angels visit Tropicana Field in June.

And what if Pujols, whose 667 career homers are fifth all-time, turns a Fleming pitch into a souvenir for a fan? “I’m not going to let him do that,” Fleming said. “But if he did, I would be perfectly fine with that.”

Miscellany

• After a three-hit, two-RBI Triple-A debut Tuesday, top prospect Wander Franco had an RBI double and a homer in Wednesday’s 4-0 win. Vidal Brujan also homered and Joe Ryan fanned nine in five innings.

• Cash said the reports were good on Tuesday’s first game of Ji-Man Choi’s weeklong rehab assignment with Durham, including five innings at first base. Choi was 1-for-4 as the DH Wednesday.

• Austin Meadows on Tuesday became the first Ray since Evan Longoria in 2011′s Game 162 to hit two homers from the seventh inning on in a game he started.

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