Farnsworth's absence gives Lueke a chance

Farnsworth's absence gives Lueke a chance

Farnsworth's absence gives Lueke a chance
ST. PETERSBURG -- Once the Rays decided that Kyle Farnsworth needed to be placed on the disabled list with a tender right elbow, Josh Lueke became the player to take the closer's place on the 25-man roster.

The Rays called Lueke at approximately 1:30 ET on Thursday afternoon, just as he was preparing to sign a lease for his apartment in Durham, N.C., where he thought he would be pitching for the Triple-A Bulls.

Lueke said he and his fiancée quickly packed up and hit the road, making the 10-hour drive from Durham to St. Petersburg.

"I was wide awake," Lueke said. "No road rage or anything."

Lueke was surprised that he got the call after going 2-1 with a 5.40 ERA in six Grapefruit League appearances and getting optioned to Durham on March 23.

"Basically, I thought it was going to be [Brandon Gomes], since he'd been there the whole camp and [it was] a last-second kind of thing, and he'd thrown really well," Lueke said. "I'd struggled a little bit in camp and didn't really have my best stuff -- and I got the call. So hopefully, I can come back up here and prove that I belong."

Since getting optioned, Lueke said he found a feel for his pitches, including his splitter, which is his best offering.

"As long as I'm able to locate that on both sides of the plate, I pretty much know I'm getting back to my mechanics the way I should be, instead of flying open," Lueke said.

"We had other things we could have possibly done," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "We don't think we saw the best of [Lueke] this camp. We think we are going to see the best of him, meaning the velocity was down a little bit. He's got this great Bugs Bunny split, changeup, whatever you want to call it. He's got to use that more often. But he has good other pitches, too. We like him a lot."

Lueke, 27, came to the Rays in a December deal that sent catcher John Jaso to the Mariners.

Lueke broke into the Major Leagues in 2011, making the Mariners' Opening Day roster, and he was one of Seattle's most effective relievers over the second half of the season. Lueke was optioned to Triple-A Tacoma in April after allowing 12 runs in 6 1/3 innings over eight appearances, but he returned to the Mariners in July and remained with them through the end of the season, posting a 3.42 ERA in 17 appearances and allowing 22 hits and seven walks, striking out 21.