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Rays closer Farnsworth will start season on disabled list

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Published:   |   Updated: March 19, 2013 at 02:22 AM
FORT MYERS -

There was nothing wrong with Kyle Farnsworth's fastball when he pitched the first inning of Saturday's game against the Boston Red Sox. It crossed the plate at its normal mid-90s range.

His slider was a little high in the strike zone, and it appeared to Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon that Farnsworth wasn't finishing his pitches.

The Rays closer had experienced some pain in his right elbow this spring, so he was sent Tuesday for an MRI, and . . .

"So we have a little bit of an issue," Maddon said. "That's all."

Farnsworth is expected to be added to the 15-day disabled list at 5 p.m. today, the deadline for teams to set their opening day roster, and there is a belief among the team it could be a lengthy stay.

Josh Lueke, a right-handed relief pitcher acquired from the Mariners in November for catcher John Jaso, is the leading candidate to replace Farnsworth on the roster.

But the bigger question is: Who will the Rays use to replace Farnsworth, who saved 25 games last season?

"If that, in fact, does happen, we will have to try to figure out the ninth," Maddon said. "I'm not going to proclaim anybody. We will just continue to do what we have done in the past."

Expect Joel Peralta, Fernando Rodney and J.P. Howell to receive opportunities to close games. You might see Wade Davis eventually slide back there if Farnsworth's injury turns out to be more than a little issue and Davis adjusts to his new role in the bullpen.

"You know how Maddon is, he goes on matchups," Peralta said. "It doesn't mean you're going to throw the ninth inning every night. . . . I'm assuming I'm probably going to get a chance, so I'm going to be ready for that."

Farnsworth will be the third Ray to open the season on the disabled list, joining center fielder B.J. Upton (sore lower back) and outfielder Sam Fuld (wrist surgery). Farnsworth's injury also capped a spring training in which a parade of players headed to the trainer's room.

Pitcher Jake McGee missed time when struck on his left elbow by a ball while watching live batting practice. Third baseman Evan Longoria bruised his hand when struck by a pitch in an intrasquad game. Pitcher Matt Moore suffered a mid-lower abdomen strain while throwing a bullpen session on the first Friday of camp.

Shortstop Sean Rodriguez sprained a knuckle. Left fielder Desmond Jennings had a sore shoulder. Shortstop Reid Brignac developed plantar fasciitis in his right foot.

Rodney was struck on the right forearm by a line drive. Pitcher Jeff Niemann developed a blister on his right middle finger.

First baseman Carlos Peña was held back at the start of camp because of a sore back. Designated hitter Luke Scott was held back to allow his surgically repair right shoulder more time to heal. Same with pitcher Brandon Gomes, who had offseason surgery on a disk in his back.

Catcher Robinson Chirinos hasn't played since suffering a concussion.

"We always like stormy weather a little bit, so the weather's been really nice," Maddon said. "So we're stepping into the stormy weather component where we have to move things around a little bit, but we're very adapt at that. We'll be fine."

Maddon has experience finding alternatives to an injured closer.

Farnsworth missed two weeks last September because of soreness in his right forearm. Peralta picked up the slack, going 4 for 4 in save opportunities. Howell saved 17 games in 2009 after Troy Percival's career ended with a hamstring injury and Jason Isringhausen suffered a season-ending elbow injury.

Rodney, who signed as a free agent in January, has 87 career saves, including 37 in 2009.

"I think I have a little bit of experience," Rodney said.

Jeremy Hellickson, who faced the Twins on Tuesday in Fort Myers, learned of Farnsworth's injury after his four-inning outing.

"We got some great arms back there, guys will step up if the worst-case scenario happens," Hellickson said. "Peralta did a great job. Rodney's done it before. There's a few others guys that can do it. But we want Farnsy back there."

Peralta agreed.

"He's the guy who shuts the door in the ninth inning," he said. "We really need him. I said earlier in spring training, this bullpen is going to be sick and he's got to be part of it. Without him, we're not the same bullpen at all."

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