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Salas: Just happy to be here

Posted Apr 21, 2008 by Marc Lancaster

Updated Apr 21, 2008 at 01:32 PM

Made my way over to the Naimoli Complex this morning and had a chat with Juan Salas, who is finally in-country after a two-month wait for an entry visa.

He seemed his usual self, looked to be in good shape and clearly is anxious to get back on the mound in a competitive situation. He threw a bullpen session today but it sounds like it might be next week sometime before he gets his first inning in an extended spring training game.

Though he said he hasn’t been told what the next step will be or when it will occur, Durham certainly could use the bullpen help and the Rays will want to see him work there before considering a call-up (not that their bullpen, with the best ERA in the majors, needs the help right now).

What was going through Salas’ mind while he was awaiting clearance to enter the U.S.?

“I was just waiting for them to give me the visa,” he said through an interpreter. “I didn’t know how long it was going to take, so all I did was practice and stay in shape and wait for the government to give me the visa.”

He said he worked out regularly both at the Rays’ complex in the Dominican and on his own near his home in Santo Domingo.

Surely the wait must have been frustrating?

“Yeah, but those things happen,” he said. “There’s nothing I could do.”

In addition to not knowing when he would be able to return to the States, Salas also dealt with personal tragedy last month. His older sister Maria, who he said had been sick on and off throughout her life, died at age 35.

“It was very painful for me because it was my sister, but I have to accept it,” he said.

It helps that Salas is back to work, essentially starting from scratch on the Rays’ regular spring training program for all of their pitchers. He said his arm feels good, but as usual his control could use some fine-tuning. Above all, he just wants to make it back to the Rays’ bullpen. He knows he would have been right there in contention with Scott Dohmann and Grant Balfour for the final spot in spring training, now it’s a matter of making up for lost time.

“I’ve been working really hard to get back,” he said. “I’m happy to see my teammates are being successful and the team’s doing pretty good. That’s why I’m working hard, to go out there and help the team.”

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