PORT CHARLOTTE — Manager Joe Maddon turned to pitching coach Jim Hickey during Saturday's 4-1 Rays win over Baltimore and joked that RHP Alex Cobb looked so good they should leave him on the mound for all nine innings.
They settled for three in a sharp outing for Cobb, who allowed one hit and struck out five of his last six hitters. Making it better was that Cobb, pegged for the No. 4 spot in the rotation, was shaky in his Monday debut and saw the payoff from some adjustments.
"I'm not going to look too much into it, just like I didn't look too much into my last outing, but it does feel good to get the results, even though it's spring training," Cobb said. "There's things to improve on going into my next start, and one of the main things is being consistent the rest of the way."
SIGNING UP: The Rays signed 21 prearbitration players to one-year deals and renewed the contract of RHP Jeremy Hellickson for the second straight year when he declined their $508,000 offer.
"It's really not that big a deal; I just thought it was the right thing to do," Hellickson said. "Now I'll just worry about playing baseball."
The Rays typically have a firm pay scale for prearbitration players, this year from the $490,000 Major League Baseball minimum to $510,000.
Hellickson, 10-11 with a 3.10 ERA last year in the followup to his 2011 American League rookie of the year season, said he thought he should have gotten the top amount, so he turned the offer down on principle. Per team policy for being renewed, the offer is reduced by $5,000. He made $489,000 last year.
"It's not about the money at all. I just felt I deserved the top of the scale," said Hellickson, who is represented by agent Scott Boras. "It was just a little short."
CUTTING DOWN: The first cuts meant the reassigning to minor-league camp of four pitchers brought in to help get the Rays through last weekend's split-squad openers: RHPs Matt Nevarez and Jim Paduch, and LHPs Jimmy Patterson and Neil Schenk. The roster is now at 62.
GAME DETAILS: New SS Yunel Escobar showed power with an opposite-field home run, speed on the bases and his usual smooth glove in the field. "That was the kind of complete game that we think you can expect out of him," Maddon said. … INF Ryan Roberts followed Escobar's homer with one. … INF Sean Rodriguez, starting in centerfield, homered in his second at-bat, ending what had been an 0-for-12 spring start. … Maddon praised relievers Brandon Gomes, Josh Lueke and Alex Torres. … INF/OF Ben Zobrist, C Jose Molina and LHPs Cesar Ramos and Torres leave today to join their World Baseball Classic teams.