If the definition of a successful spring training is one if which no key player is lost to injury, than this morning's announcement that Brad Boxberger underwent surgery yesterday marks the low point of this spring. The surgery repaired his adductor brevis muscle. Located between the pelvis and the thigh, the adductor brevis is used to rotate the thigh laterally. He is likely to rejoin the team in late May or early June.
After the trade of Jake McGee, the back end of the bullpen was one of the biggest question marks on the team heading into the season, so news that one of the few, tested, high-leverage relievers would be out for an extended period is concerning.
Currently, the Rays have Alex Colome, Enny Romero, Xavier Cedeno, Steve Geltz, Ryan Webb, Danny Farquhar, and David Carpenter all projected to be in the major league bullpen. They also have solid arms coming up through the system such as Parker Markel, and Mark Sappington. Who is likely to take Boxberger's high leverage innings?
What are the Rays' Options?
#Rays Cash said they "won't name a closer" in Boxberger's absence, will close by matchups, mentioned Colome, Cedeno, Webb, Geltz, Farquhar— Marc Topkin (@TBTimes_Rays) March 18, 2016
Alex Colome - Once moved to the bullpen Colome was able to work his way into high leverage work by the end of the season due mostly to his 27% K-rate and 4.3% BB-rate leading to a 1.71 FIP. The downside in moving Colome to a primary role in the ninth inning is it would likely remove him from multiple inning duty.
Xavier Cedeno - Performed well as a LOOGY last year in the bullpen. Cedeno posted a 21.7% K-rate and a 4.1% BB-rate that led to a 2.57 FIP against left-handed batters. He didn't perform as well against right-handed hitters, posting a 28.6% K-rate and 10.4% bb-rate that lead to a 3.46 FIP.
Ryan Webb - Webb is pretty far from the usual "closer" model. Last year with the Indians he struck out 15.2% and walked 5.9% of batters faced, leading to a 3.77 FIP. Webb had a 59.2% ground ball rate as his selling point.
Steve Geltz - Geltz performed well in the role that was required of him last year. This would be a big step up in leverage, but he did post a 23.2% K-rate and 9.8% BB-rate for the Rays last season.
Danny Farquhar - If the Rays want somebody with experience, Farquhar would be the best option as he collected 16 saves for the Mariners in 2013 where he posted a 34.7% K-rate and 9.7% BB-rate, leading to a 1.86 FIP. Farquhar is coming off a down 2015 that saw him struggle against right handed batters where he allowed a .306/.364/.574 400 wOBA line against. The good news is he was able to keep left handed batters in check, only allowing a .215/.280/.396 .285 wOBA line.
There may be some other dark horse (no, that's not another Colome joke) options, as Enny Romero could possibly be thrust into the position if he can learn to control his pitches. Romero showed he had the ability to dominate opposing hitters with his blistering fastball, however, also showed that he could lose control at any moment and make a game turn ugly quick. Others have suggested that Jaime Schultz could be converted into a reliever.
Who wins the job?
The good news is Boxberger should only miss about six to eight weeks of the season and the Rays have bodies that can fill in for the 15-20 innings that he is likely to miss.
The most likely outcome is that Colome and Cedeno share the duties at least to start the season with an outside chance that Farquhar gets an opportunity. Cash will probably slot in relievers based on match-ups.
The starting rotation might have to shoulder more of the load at this time unless the Rays look outside the organization for help. Figuring out how to allocate innings without overburdening the remaining relievers will be among Cash's and Hickey's biggest challenges. Expect the Durham shuttle to be in operation, too, for anyone with options.