Rays to begin season without Boxberger

Closer out about 8 weeks after abdominal surgery; Cash will mix and match in 9th inning

Rays to begin season without Boxberger

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- When closer Brad Boxberger began experiencing some discomfort while throwing off the mound this spring, the Rays thought it was probably nothing more than a tight hamstring.

It turned out to be more serious than that. The right-hander, who led the American League with 41 saves last season, visited a specialist in Philadelphia and had surgery Thursday to repair a torn abdominal adductor muscle. Boxberger is expected to miss approximately eight weeks.

"Obviously it's a blow, because we know he's so valuable," said manager Kevin Cash.

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The Rays will not designate a closer while Boxberger, 27, is on the disabled list. Instead they'll mix and match. Cash is confident he has the arms to make that work without looking outside the organization.

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"We have a number of guys who could try to fill that void for the first month of the year," said Cash. "There will be some opportunities that will present themselves for some more bullpen arms. We'll see how we match up and how it fits and who's ready to pitch on any given night."

Boxberger to miss eight weeks

Among the candidates to take on a more significant role are right-handers Alex Colome, Steve Geltz, Danny Farquhar and Ryan Webb and left-hander Xavier Cedeno.

"We definitely do [like our options]," Cash said. "We all saw Colome evolve into a pretty dominant force in the bullpen. Cedeno was as consistent as anybody last year. Geltsie learned a lot. He had a really good year until he just got worn out a little bit. And most of that's on me for putting him out there.

"And then the additions we have in Ryan Webb, who's got some experience at the back end. Farquhar, who has [18 saves for the Mariners]. So we have multiple options, and we're excited to see how it shakes out."

Coincidentally, four of those pitchers appeared in Friday's game against a Red Sox split squad at Charlotte Sports Park. They combined to pitch five innings and didn't allow an earned run.

Farquhar gave up one hit and struck out one in 1 2/3 scoreless innings, but also struck out two. Colome issued one walk in his 1 1/3 no-hit frames. Geltz allowed just one baserunner, on a walk, in one inning while striking out one. Cedeno pitched a 1-2-3 eighth, striking out one.

Cash said the Rays will have a much better idea of when Boxberger will be able to return in about a month. It's unclear exactly how he suffered the injury.

"It's just been kind of nagging him. It wasn't anything specific," Cash said. "But had we not gotten it fixed, then it would have nagged for a long time."

President of baseball operation Matt Silverman echoed Cash's sentiments.

"It certainly makes it more difficult for us to lose someone like Brad for a chunk of the season," Silverman said. "It's tough. But we brought in a lot of candidates who are going to compete for a spot and help us keep this thing together until we get him back.

"We like who we have in camp. At the same time, we're always on the phone. We're always looking at transactions, trying to see if there are places we can upgrade, whether it's the bullpen or elsewhere. But if we had to put together a bullpen from the guys we have in camp, we feel good about that. And we'll feel even better when we get Brad back.

"It's just going to be a team approach, a bullpen approach. Make sure that we get the most out of the guys we have. It adds a little bit more competition to the bullpen. Which is a good thing. I think we'll see a couple guys step up."

Boxberger is scheduled to return to camp this weekend.

Fantasy spin
Zachary Finkelstein | @Fantasy411
Boxberger has the unquestionable ability to be great, meaning he should still be drafted in all leagues this spring. Owners in mixed leagues should still acquire the right-hander this spring, spending $1 on him in mixed-league auctions and using a near-final-round pick in 10- and 12-team leagues. Farquar and Colome, the likeliest options to close in Boxberger's absence, are both draftable late in AL-only leagues until one of the two is made the frontrunner for April and May saves.

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Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.