ST. PETERSBURG — RHP Alex Cobb makes his eagerly anticipated return to the rotation today with no apprehension about the oblique strain that sidelined him for 5½ weeks or limitations beyond a pitch count in the 90-100 range.
There is the matter of soaring expectations, though he seems to have a pretty good handle on those, too.
"There's definitely no weight to that, pressure-wise for me. I don't know what people's expectations are for a guy — any guy — to go out there that's pitching one out of every five days to have impact-wise on a team," Cobb said Wednesday.
"I'm going to give everything I have that every fifth day. It's a lot more to a rhythm of a team than one guy going every five days. I'm going to do everything I can, and whatever plays off of that is great.
"One thing I can't do is go out there and try to win five games every time. It's going to be one game at a time. All I can do is execute each and every pitch and try to go as deep as I can and win every single game that I can. There's definitely a mind-set of not trying to do too much, for sure."
Manager Joe Maddon appreciated the perspective.
"I'm glad that he said that, because that's exactly right," he said. "I just want him to be Cobber and go out there and pitch his game (today), and that's it."
Cobb was injured during an otherwise impressive April 12 outing in Cincinnati. He made a rehab start Saturday, throwing 64 pitches for Class A Charlotte.
Maddon said how long Cobb will go will be based in part on how much stress he endures in getting there.
FOR EVERY ACTION: The Rays, needing to make room on the 25-man roster for Cobb, optioned OF Kevin Kiermaier back to Triple-A Durham. Kiermaier was called up Saturday when CF Desmond Jennings went on the bereavement list and hit in each of his first three games.
HELLICKSON UPDATE: RHP Jeremy Hellickson takes the next step in his recovery from Jan. 29 elbow surgery by throwing his first live batting practice today.
Hellickson said he has been throwing curveballs in his past few bullpen sessions and had no day-after soreness. "I was talking to David (Price) after like the first two or three bullpens, am I going to have to pitch with the soreness the rest of my life or what?" Hellickson said. "Two bullpens later, there's nothing. So that's very encouraging."
Hellickson said he doesn't have a target date for his return but hopes to be back before the July 14-17 All-Star break.
colome, too: RHP Alex Colome's 50-game performance-enhancing drug suspension ends Saturday; he threw in extended spring training Wednesday, and the plan is for him to join Durham on Sunday or shortly thereafter.
MORE PITCHING: Maddon said there were several reasons for starting RHP Chris Archer on Friday and Price on Saturday: Giving Price an extra day after he threw 119 pitches Sunday; not having too much rest for Archer as he pitched May 16; and splitting up Price and Cobb, who tend to work deeper than the other starters.
HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE: Wednesday's game was the 11th, since records were first available in 1914, where a team allowed three or more runs on one hit or less in a loss. … LHP Erik Bedard lost for the second time allowing one hit; also July 20, 2013 for Houston vs. Seattle.
MISCELLANY: At 3:53, it was the 18th Rays game of more than 3½ hours, 35th of three-plus. … The Rays shook up their lineup, Maddon batting RF Wil Myers first (for the second time in his career), 3B Evan Longoria second (for the sixth time) and LF Brandon Guyer fourth (for the first time. Myers got two hits, Longoria and Guyer none. … Retired RHP Dan Wheeler will represent the Rays at the June 5 MLB draft.