Tuesday, January 23, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays' Alex Cobb to return to rotation Friday

BOSTON — The first official day of what Alex Cobb is calling his "big-league reincarnation" didn't go all smoothly.

Cobb couldn't have been more excited to board Monday's 2:30 p.m. early bus with his teammates and to walk into the Fenway Park clubhouse, however cramped, for the first time in nearly two years.

One problem: He totally forgot his equipment was in the bag he'd lugged from Durham, where he made his final rehab start Saturday. And that was sitting in his hotel room, rather than unpacked and piled in his locker like the players who have been with the team.

"My first blunder," Cobb said.

Cobb borrowed workout clothes, and the bag was sent over on the later bus. And things kept getting better from there, starting with official word he would make his long-awaited and hard-earned return from May 2015 Tommy John elbow surgery Friday at the Trop, as the Rays shift to a six-man rotation for the final month.

"It's real," Cobb said.

Manager Kevin Cash said the decision to slot Cobb in on Friday and go with a straight six-man rotation, giving each five starts over the final 30 games and keeping them on a routine, although not a standard once-every-five-days, was "actually a pretty simple" one.

"We've got, we feel, six guys that all have a reason to be starters," Cash said. "That's what made the most sense for us. We didn't feel it was right to jerk anybody around and piggyback (by having two split a game)."

Here are some takeaways from their decision, made with an eye toward 2017:

Cobb is a priority: Cobb was a sharp enough pitcher to be tabbed the 2015 opening day starter until he got hurt in spring training, and a strong enough leader that Cash has openly acknowledged how much they missed him.

So the priority now is to get him as much work to get past as many of the potential issues and struggles (see Matt Moore, July 2015) so he can have a regular, stress-free offseason and head to Port Charlotte next spring of sound arm and mind, ready to reclaim his place as an elite pitcher.

"It's so important now to get him back here," Cash said. "He's worked really hard through the injury to get back. Let him get his innings in, as many as possible here in September, let him have some success and go into the offseason feeling normal."

Cobb, grinning all day over "feeling like a big-leaguer again," realizes there is more work to do: "Just because the rehab portion is over my journey getting back to where I was when I originally got hurt isn't finished — I still have some ways to go."

No shutdowns: Other options would have been to drop prized rookie Blake Snell from the rotation, or move Matt Andriese, who got roughed up in Monday's 9-4 loss to the Red Sox, back to the bullpen, but the Rays want to see them pitch. Using the six-man setup actually limits everyone's workload to a degree.

But the Rays want Snell to experience pitching through September for the first time and are comfortable with his workload — 1311/3 innings thus far between minors and majors. That gives him about 30 to play with and stay at around their rough limit of a 20 percent increase from last season, when he worked 134 in the minors.

Similarly, they want to see more out of Andriese, who had been bounced between starting (5-5, 4.71 in 14 games) and relieving (1-1, 2.38 in 10).

Related, Drew Smyly on Wednesday will surpass his career high of 153 innings. Conversely, Chris Archer will lose out on a start, which could hurt his bid to get the 31 innings to reach his goal of 200, though could also keep him from 20 losses.

PROMISING FUTURE: The front office could — and, realistically, probably will — change this by dealing a starter or two, but the group the Rays have now certainly portends promise for 2017.

They have Cobb, Archer, Jake Odorizzi, Snell, Smyly and Andriese, plus they'll get a look in relief at Chase Whitley, the former Yankee who also just completed his Tommy John rehab, and they still have Erasmo Ramirez, assuming they'll pay his $4 million or so arbitration-driven salary. Plus there will be the usual intriguing prospects, led by Jacob Faria and Jaime Schultz.

"We're very excited," Cash said. "It's a great luxury to have. Ultimately they have to go out and pitch well, but you can never have enough starting pitching, and we feel very strong in that category."

Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected]. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.

Comments
Brent Honeywell, Willy Adames lead Rays prospects in Baseball Americaís top 100

Brent Honeywell, Willy Adames lead Rays prospects in Baseball Americaís top 100

The Rays had two players in the top 20 and six overall in Baseball America's annual ranking of the game's top 100 prospects.RHP Brent Honeywell heads the Rays contingent at No. 14 with shortstop Willy Adames at No. 19.The other ranked Rays are 1B/LHP...
Published: 01/22/18
Why free agency hasnít turned out fun (yet) for ex-Rays pitcher Alex Cobb

Why free agency hasnít turned out fun (yet) for ex-Rays pitcher Alex Cobb

RHP Alex Cobb never expected to be going into late January without knowing where he was going for spring training.The longtime Ray's first foray into free agency hasn't gone as planned, much like the 150-plus others waiting for something to give in a...
Published: 01/20/18
Updated: 01/21/18
Rays infielder Daniel Robertson lends a hand to help families dealing with cancer

Rays infielder Daniel Robertson lends a hand to help families dealing with cancer

Rays infielder Daniel Robertson has much to be excited about heading into his second season in the majors.But before packing for spring training, he took some time last weekend to provide help for families needing assistance in dealing with cancer.Hi...
Published: 01/19/18
Ex-Rays star Longoria dons Giants jersey, looks forward to full-stadium environment in San Francisco

Ex-Rays star Longoria dons Giants jersey, looks forward to full-stadium environment in San Francisco

Longtime Rays star Evan Longoria was formally introduced in San Francisco today, adding the visual of him pulling on his new Giants jersey, switching to No. 10 since 3 is retired.Longoria said he welcomed the chance to play on a contending team stock...
Published: 01/19/18
What do Rays look like now? What will they look like March 29?

What do Rays look like now? What will they look like March 29?

ST. PETERSBURG — Since entering an off-season planning major change and pledging to be open to "anything and everything,'' the Rays have made a few minor moves and one massive one in trading franchise cornerstone Evan Longoria to San Francisco....
Published: 01/19/18
Reminder: Rays spring tickets go on sale today at 10 a.m.

Reminder: Rays spring tickets go on sale today at 10 a.m.

The Rays will put single game tickets for spring training home games on sale today at 10 a.m. via raysbaseball.com.The Rays are playing 14 home games in Port Charlotte, starting with the Feb. 23 opener vs. Pittsburgh. Tickets will be available at the...
Published: 01/19/18
Tampa Bay Rays 2018 spring training schedule

Tampa Bay Rays 2018 spring training schedule

Charlotte Sports Park, 2300 El Jobean Rd., Port Charlotte, 33948Get tickets here: (941) 206-4487Pitchers report: Feb. 13. Squad reports: Feb. 19TEAM SCHEDULE(games at 1:05 unless noted)(ss - split squad)Feb 23 at Orioles (ss) (Sarasota)Feb 23 PIRATE...
Published: 01/19/18
Ex-Phillies, Indians manager Charlie Manuel to get Ted Williams Museum award

Ex-Phillies, Indians manager Charlie Manuel to get Ted Williams Museum award

Former Phillies and Indians manager Charlie Manuel will receive the Ted Williams Lifetime Achievement Award on Feb. 10 in Clearwater.The honor is bestowed by the Ted Williams Museum at its annual Hitters Hall of Fame induction, moving this year from ...
Published: 01/19/18
Former Rays OF Matt Joyce to hold annual charity baseball camp at North Brandon complex

Former Rays OF Matt Joyce to hold annual charity baseball camp at North Brandon complex

Armwood High product Matt Joyce, the current A's and former Rays outfielder, hosts his ninth annual Sweet Swingin' charity baseball camp for kids 6-12 on Sunday at the North Brandon youth baseball complex (2929 S Kingsway Rd, Seffner).Registration st...
Published: 01/18/18
Rays spring tickets go on sale Friday

Rays spring tickets go on sale Friday

The Rays will put single game tickets for spring training home games on sale Friday at 10 a.m. via raysbaseball.com.The Rays are playing 14 home games in Port Charlotte, starting with the Feb. 23 opener vs. Pittsburgh. Tickets will be available at th...
Published: 01/17/18