Brad Boxberger Back in Tampa Bay Rays Bullpen, This Time to Stay

By Robbie Knopf

It must be frustrating to be a player who continuously goes up and down between Triple-A and the major leagues. Brad Boxberger has now been that player for three years. After two stints with the San Diego Padres in 2012, he had three more in 2013, and he is about to begin his third 2014 stint now. There is a difference this time, though: if Boxberger performs, there is nothing stopping him from being in the major leagues the rest of the season.

Brad Boxberger turned heads for his stuff in spring training, and he did so a grander scale to begin 2014. In 6 Triple-A appearances, he has a ridiculous 18-4 strikeout to walk ratio in 9.1 innings pitched. In his four big league appearances, meanwhile, he has walked 5 in 6 innings pitched but allowed little else, giving up just 2 hits and no runs while striking out 7. The control is going to be something to monitor with Boxberger, but it was impossible not to be impressed by his stuff. He touched the mid-90’s with movement on his fastball to go along with a devastating changeup and a solid slider. He looked like a pitcher with not just the ability to be an effective middle reliever, but to dominate. In a Rays bullpen that has overpowered few hitters this season, Boxberger will be welcome change of pace.

So far in 2014, the Rays bullpen ranks just 28th in baseball in strikeouts per 9 innings at just 6.9. Even the Rays’ starting pitchers are at 7.8. None of the Rays’ four primary relievers by innings pitched have struck out even 7.0 batters per 9 innings, and even strikeout artist Jake McGee is at only 8.8 batters per 9 innings. The Rays had no one they could count on to come in and get a key strikeout. Brad Boxberger can be that pitcher. The Rays are not call him up to be the latest pitcher in their bullpen carousel–they are calling him up to be an impact arm right from the start. He is going to be put in big spots immediately, and the Rays will be counting on him to succeed. The reason for that is simple: they believe Boxberger can take it. It is exciting to see the Rays replace Heath Bell with a pitcher they believe can be a key piece of their bullpen for the rest of the year. It is Brad Boxberger’s time now, and let’s see how good he can be.