Wednesday, December 13, 2017
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays' Cobb to alter approach against Red Sox

ST. PETERSBURG — If nothing else, RHP Alex Cobb expects a less eventful outing when he takes the mound tonight.

Cobb made history — not necessarily good history — in his last outing Friday, becoming the first major-league pitcher to strike out 13 in an appearance that lasted less than five innings and the first to strike out all four batters he faced in an inning and still allow a run.

The unusual results were the product of extraordinary movement on his changeup and extreme aggressiveness by San Diego hitters who hadn't seen him before, which led him to throw the changeup 49 times in his 117 pitches.

Facing a Boston team that is both more patient and familiar, Cobb figures the outcome will be different.

"With a team like Boston, I won't have the same approach," he said.

Cobb tends to be a ground-ball pitcher, so one primary concern is cutting out the home runs. He has allowed five over his past two starts.

"That can't happen," he said. "I need to put the ball on the ground more."

MORE MOORE: In becoming the first major-leaguer this year, and the first Ray ever, to start a season 7-0, LHP Matt Moore, 23, reached a few other milestones: the youngest to go 7-0 as a starter since the Angels' Jered Weaver in 2006, the first lefty to do so since the Marlins' Dontrelle Willis in 2005 and the first AL lefty 23 or younger to do so since the Red Sox's Babe Ruth in 1917.

WELL-ARMED: Kelly Johnson came out for early work, specifically to practice throwing from leftfield to home plate.

"I've had a couple throws to home that should have been a little better," he said. "It's just something I like to do."

HOME SWEET DOME: The Rays got a break in Tuesday's 5-3 win when OF Matt Joyce's towering infield popup eluded Red Sox 1B Mike Napoli, allowing the two decisive runs to score.

Though the tricky Trop roof has caused the Rays problems, manager Joe Maddon said it should be an advantage.

"When it comes to fly balls, it should always be in our favor because we get to play here all the time," Maddon said.

But also, he said, "It astonishes me how well our guys play here."

WHEELS DOWN: Former Rays reliever Dan Wheeler is home in Pinellas County this week after being released from Kansas City's Triple-A team, but he is hoping to get another opportunity.

"If something worked out, I'd listen," said Wheeler, 35. "I'm not closing the door on anything. It would have to be a really good situation."

Wheeler last pitched regularly in the majors in 2011 with Boston. He spent the bulk of last season with Cleveland's Triple-A team, though he did pitch in 12 games for the Indians. He signed with the Royals and went to Triple-A Omaha but struggled, going 1-3 with a 9.00 ERA in 11 games, allowing 28 hits and five walks in 15 innings.

Wheeler said he is confident he could still be successful in the big leagues and knows he would have to prove that by working his way back through the minors.

"I don't feel like I've lost anything," Wheeler said. "My arm and body feel great. There's definitely something there."

And while he enjoys being home with his family, he sounds eager for another chance.

"No one wants to go out like that," Wheeler said.

"I'm kind of hoping there's something out there."

MISCELLANY: 1B James Loney, who began the day leading the majors with a .381 average, earned the start against tough Boston LHP Jon Lester, though Maddon said it was as much for his defense. … Boston's Felix Doubront tonight will be the sixth left-handed starter the Rays have faced on the 10-game homestand.

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