Boxberger exits with side injury in '16 debut

Rays reliever was making return from offseason surgery

Boxberger exits with side injury in '16 debut

KANSAS CITY -- Rays manager Kevin Cash wanted to ease right-hander Brad Boxberger back into action.

Tuesday night's contest -- a 10-5 loss to the Royals -- served up the perfect moment, with the Rays trailing by four runs in the sixth, affording the 2015 American League saves leader an outing to knock off the rust.

Unfortunately for the Rays, Boxberger had to leave the game due to a muscle strain in his left side. He will be further evaluated on Wednesday.

The Rays have not announced if a player will be brought in Wednesday to take Boxberger's roster spot. The Rays have eight relievers and are a position player short on their roster. So any roster moves might see a position player join the team rather than a pitcher.

Facing Jarrod Dyson, his sixth batter of the inning, Boxberger appeared to come up favoring his side after his third pitch, which moved the count to 3-0.

Boxberger said he began to feel that something was going on several pitches earlier.

"I knew after that last pitch, I wasn't able to go any more," Boxberger said. "Everything up until this point felt great. Felt great in the 'pen. Felt great in those first couple of batters. Then something just happened, I don't even know."

Boxberger was immediately lifted and Dana Eveland finished out the inning.

After missing the team's first 49 games due to adductor (core muscle) surgery, Boxberger made his season debut and promptly got ahead of Whit Merrifield 0-2 before retiring him on a foul flyout to right field. He then got ahead of Lorenzo Cain 0-1 before retiring him on a groundout to second.

Eric Hosmer was the third batter Boxberger faced, and he got ahead 0-2 before the Royals first baseman laced a single to left. Kendrys Morales followed by hitting the first pitch he saw into the Rays' bullpen in right field for a two-run homer.

Boxberger then hit Paulo Orlando with a pitch before facing Dyson.

"It's the best I've thrown the ball all year, I guess you could say," Boxberger said. "Everything felt good coming out. Felt as fresh as I could. It just [stinks] to have this setback now."

Cash expressed how disappointed he was for Boxberger after he'd gone through all the rehab work to return from surgery.

"And he actually looked really good," Cash said. "The fastball was jumping out of his hand. He gave up the home run to Morales; he went up there and ambushed him. But we were really happy the way the ball was coming out of Box's hand. Another unfortunate injury that we'll overcome."

Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2005. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.