ANAHEIM, Calif. — LHP Cesar Ramos has a number of reasons to be excited for tonight's start, having been born and raised in the Los Angeles area and playing collegiately at Long Beach State with more than 20 friends and relatives expected to be in the stands.
What he hasn't thought about is the possibility this could be his last start.
"Not whatsoever,' he said.
RHP Alex Cobb is making a rehab start tonight in Port Charlotte as the final test in his recovery from an oblique strain. If all goes well and he feels good Sunday and in a bullpen session Monday, he will return to the rotation Thursday, which means somebody has to go.
Manager Joe Maddon said — several times in fact — the Rays have not decided who will get bumped; whether it will be Ramos, LHP Erik Bedard or RHP Jake Odorizzi.
"We honestly have not decided. That's open for debate. It's a conversation," he said. "Quite frankly, they've all pitched well."
Maddon said he spoke briefly about the subject Thursday by phone with executive vice president Andrew Friedman and will talk further today with pitching coach Jim Hickey.
There will be several factors in the decision presuming Cobb, out since April 12, gets through his five innings tonight and is ready to return, which Maddon said they expect.
That includes the schedule. The Rays are off Monday, creating additional flexibility in tweaking the order as well, plus factoring in that ace LHP David Price, who starts Sunday, prefers to stay on a five-day schedule. (Doing so in this case would set him up to pitch Friday's series opener with Boston.)
Bedard has been on a roll with four straight solid starts. Odorizzi, who beat out the other two in spring training for the No. 5 job, has made adjustments and posted back-to-back strong starts.
That would seem to make Ramos — whose last outing in Seattle started poorly — most likely to go. Plus he could more easily transition back to the long-relief role he had previously.
"I like being a starter, and hopefully, they like what I'm doing," Ramos said. "I think I've done pretty well. Not to brag about it, but I feel like I've done a pretty good job to give us a chance to win every time I go out there."
In six starts, Ramos is 1-2 with a 4.03 ERA. Bedard, also in six, is 2-1, 2.97. Odorizzi in eight starts is 2-3, 4.89.
OLD FACES, NEW PLACES: INF Jayson Nix, who made a solid but unsuccessful bid for a bench job in spring training, is close to rejoining the team on a minor-league deal. The Rays traded Nix to the Phillies at the end of spring training, but he was designated for assignment. … RHP Heath Bell, released earlier this month, has agreed to a minor-league deal with the Orioles, according to multiple media reports. The Rays cut Bell loose after he went 1-1, 7.27 in 13 games, eating more than $4 million in salary.
HOT STUFF: Thursday's 95-degree first pitch wasn't that hot by Rays standards, the 23rd game they've played at that temperature or higher. They are 6-17 in those games. The record is 102, most recently in Texas in 2011.
YO, BRO: INF Cole Figueroa got all kinds of congratulatory texts and calls after being called up to the majors for the first time. One of the more interesting came from twin brother Correy, who, after playing at St. Petersburg College and the University of Tampa, now works with their mom in an insurance office in Tallahassee. "He's like, 'Can I come in and switch out with you for a day?' because we are twins and he doesn't think anyone would notice," Cole said. "I was like, 'You'd have to ask Joe if we're playing that day.' I think he wouldn't mind a day in the life."
MISCELLANY: OF Kevin Kiermaier is headed west for potential activation. With no known Rays injury, it could be a paternity or bereavement situation. … Cobb will start for the advanced Class A Stone Crabs in Port Charlotte (against Clearwater, 6 p.m.), scheduled for five innings or 75 pitches. … After participating in the Angels' pregame cow milking contest Friday, Price will make a more serious appearance today, visiting the MLB Urban Youth Academy in Compton, Calif. … Maddon chose Logan Forsythe to start at second over Sean Rodriguez, saying they felt better with a right-handed hitter against Angels RHP Jered Weaver and acknowledging it would be a tough debut for Figueroa.