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Rays happy 'Box' is healthy, back in bullpen

Former closer missed 99 games while on disabled list in 2016
MLB.com @wwchastain

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Brad Boxberger is healthy. That's the main thing after a 2016 season that saw him spend more time on the disabled list than on the field.

"Box" made only 27 appearances in 2016, just one year removed from being named an American League All-Star and leading the AL with 41 saves. He was on the DL for 99 games last season.

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Brad Boxberger is healthy. That's the main thing after a 2016 season that saw him spend more time on the disabled list than on the field.

"Box" made only 27 appearances in 2016, just one year removed from being named an American League All-Star and leading the AL with 41 saves. He was on the DL for 99 games last season.

Looking to upgrade this year's bullpen, the addition of a healthy Boxberger will do just that.

Rays manager Kevin Cash said that having Boxberger back, and in good health, would be a big asset for the team.

"Not to put added pressure on Box -- he had a lost year, not by his doing, just injuries -- but you look around the league, you see a lot of kind of those two-headed-monster bullpen, and Box and [Alex] Colome at the back end would be huge for us. We need to get him to where he is comfortable and pitching in those big innings like we saw him in '15."

Video: All-Star Boxberger claims 2015 AL saves crown

Boxberger noted that until last season, he'd taken his health for granted.

"I'd never been hurt before last year," Boxberger said. "So it kind of changed my perspective on everything."

Initially, Boxberger had surgery March 17 of last year to repair the adductor brevis muscle in his groin area, so he began the season on the DL. Reinstated on May 30, he made his debut in Kansas City the following day, but had to leave the game due to a left oblique injury after pitching two-thirds of an inning. He again went on the DL and was not reinstated until July 29.

Boxberger doesn't know if the second injury was related to the first.

"It could have been," Boxberger shrugged. "It was just one of those years that you kind of have to battle through."

The 28-year-old right-hander viewed 2016 as an outlier, so he didn't do anything too different in preparing for the '17 season.

"My offseason plan had been working for me up until last year, a couple of bumps in the road, but there could have been a lot of causes for that," Boxberger said. "This offseason I focused a little bit more on what I ate. But other than that, get after it every day."

While Boxberger was away, Colome took over the closer's role and thrived. That leaves the Rays with a pleasant problem this season: Who will close?

Boxberger smiled when asked if he liked the idea of having two closers.

"No," Boxberger said. "I'm more traditional in the mindset of how to run a bullpen. I think it's fair to say everyone wants to know what their situation is so they have a chance to prepare for it."

How the Rays handle the Boxberger/Colome situation this season remains to be seen. For now, the important thing is that Boxberger is healthy.

"I feel great now," Boxberger said. "And it's just a matter of going out there and starting out the season strong."

Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2005.

Tampa Bay Rays, Brad Boxberger