ST. PETERSBURG — Rays rookie RHP Alex Cobb knows tonight's start against the Marlins likely will be his last before getting sent back down to Triple-A Durham.
With RHP Jeff Niemann out with a lower-back strain, Cobb expected his big-league stay to be temporary. But what Cobb and the Rays have learned from his four-start stint is significant.
He'll be back.
"He understands he belongs here," manager Joe Maddon said. "He's going to pitch here for a long time. He's going to be a very productive major-league pitcher."
The Rays knew Cobb (1-0, 3.57) had a 90-mph fastball to go with an excellent straight changeup and a "swing-and-miss" curveball, Maddon said. But it wasn't until the Rays saw him bounce back from struggles, including a rocky debut, that, Maddon said, he saw the "really good (mental) makeup."
"When you're in the minor leagues, you always ask the guys who have been (in the majors), 'What's it like?' " Cobb, 23, said. "And it's hard for somebody to explain to somebody what the difference is between the minor leagues and big leagues. Being able to experience it gets rid of all the doubts of, 'Are you good enough to be up here?' "
BOBBY'S BACK: Bullpen coach Bobby Ramos returned after missing five games with bronchitis.
He said he was nervous because he didn't know for a while what was wrong.
"I was down for the count," he said. "I'm feeling a lot better."
Ramos said he felt symptoms off and on for about four weeks and was lethargic. He finally saw an ear, nose and throat specialist, who diagnosed the trouble and prescribed medication.
"It wasn't good. It was a struggle," Ramos said.
"I don't know about full strength, but I'm back."
FAMILIAR FACE: Marlins LHP Randy Choate, a Ray from 2009-10, was happy to be back at the Trop, saying there are things he misses about being with Tampa Bay.
Choate, 35, was open to returning in the offseason but respected the Rays' decision to go in another direction. He signed a two-year deal with Florida.
"They were like a family to me the past two years," Choate said of the Rays. "They put me in a position that really helped me establish myself in what I do. Their clubhouse, the way they make it, from (executive vice president Andrew Friedman) on down, it was relaxed but with being accountable.
"I feel good here (with Florida). I feel I fit in. But I'm saying the whole attitude from the top all the way down (with the Rays) is different from any other clubhouse in any other organization."
close call: Marlins manager Edwin Rodriguez was ejected in the eighth for arguing that Sean Rodriguez's two-run double was a ground-rule double and not fan interference, and shouldn't have scored Evan Longoria from first.
MISCELLANY: The Rays set their rotation for next week's Brewers series. Niemann, expected to be ready to come off the disabled list Monday, will be followed by RHP Jeremy Hellickson and LHP David Price. … Maddon said Longoria is battling a "sore spot in his foot" but is fine. … The state champion Alonso High baseball team was recognized before the game. Star RHP Jose Fernandez, Florida's first-round draft pick (14th overall) this year, wore Marlins gear.