PORT CHARLOTTE — A week or two into camp, RHP Jake Odorizzi asked RHP Alex Cobb for a little advice on how to throw the hybrid splitter-changeup that Cobb calls "The Thing."
Based on the early results, it could be a big thing in Odorizzi's arsenal.
Odorizzi experimented with it in his first outing Feb. 28, then used it more, and in more key moments, Wednesday in closing out the ninth inning of a 5-4 win over the Yankees.
"It just keeps getting more encouraging each time out," Odorizzi said, noting that hitters were swinging over it. "Last time it was good; this time I would categorize it as really good. I'm really happy with the direction it's heading right now. I think it'll be a huge, huge plus going into the season."
Where Odorizzi starts the season, and in what role, is unclear. He started camp seemingly as the favorite to take the open spot in the rotation but thus far has been used twice in relief, acknowledging he's a bit uncomfortable without being able to do his usual warmup.
"Hopefully next time I'll get a start and get to go through my normal routine and kind of pitch like a starter," he said. "Right now it's tough to go out there and use (all my) pitches."
THE 'SAR: LHP Cesar Ramos showed well in his first start after officially joining the competition for the No. 5 spot, working into the third and allowing three singles in the first and two runs (one on a should-have-been-turned double play grounder) but not much else.
"I liked the strike-throwing, the usage of all pitches," manager Joe Maddon said. "I thought he did fine."
Ramos, who switched to full-time reliever three years ago, was pleased, too: "I felt pretty natural to be back out there. The up-and-downs (between innings), I was curious how I was going to react to it. I felt fine the whole way."
Maddon said he was also pleased with LHP Erik Bedard, another candidate, who worked three scoreless innings, allowing three hits and a walk.
MORE PITCHING: Maddon said RHP Nathan Karns was pushed back from Tuesday until today as a precaution because he was "maybe a little sore" but is fine. … RHP Grant Balfour had a second messy outing, allowing two runs on two hits and a walk; Maddon, unsolicited, offered "physically, he's fine."
POWER BALL: CF Desmond Jennings, who came into camp noticeably muscled up, showed some of his power with a three-run homer over the leftfield boardwalk.
"It was nice to see Desmond get into something," Maddon said. "He'd had some good swings and been fouling them back."
Jennings said the added 10 pounds or so of muscle was more to offset weight he usually loses in the spring but also, "I definitely want to drive the ball more."
ZO' BETTER: 2B Ben Zobrist showed there are no lingering effects of his early camp back issues with a homer, a fly to deep center and a single in his second game, with a third set for Saturday. "I've felt really good for at least a few days now," he said. "So I don't have any feeling like it might hold me back from continuing to play as much as possible."
GAME DETAILS: Down 4-1 early, the Rays (4-1-1) rallied for four in the fifth, on homers by Jennings and DH Matt Joyce, to win their fourth straight. … INF Vince Belnome, battling for a bench spot, had two hits. … The Rays made their first error of the spring, in their 52nd inning, when minor-league 3B Richie Shaffer booted a ground ball.
MISCELLANY: Minor-league INF Cole Figueroa was hit on the leg by a line drive during back-field work but is on today's travel roster. … Team president Matt Silverman and RHP Joel Peralta will be guests for tonight's Countdown to Opening Day radio show, 7-8 on 620-AM.