ST. PETERSBURG — It was only 20 throws from halfway up the bullpen mound in early afternoon.
But for Rays RHPs Alex Cobb and Chase Whitley, a pickup from the Yankees also recovering from May 2015 Tommy John elbow surgery, it was a significant step toward their projected late July returns.
"It's nothing too exciting from the outside looking in, but for us it was a pretty big day, so we were excited for it," Cobb said. "It meant a lot to us. To know you can kind of put a check mark next to that point of the rehab was nice."
Cobb said the plan is throw again Friday and next Tuesday from halfway then move all the way up the mound by the end of next week, progressing next into facing hitters and eventually rehab games.
"I think from here on out things are going to start speeding up a little bit," Cobb said. "Before you know it, (we're) facing hitters and real baseball is being played."
PITCHING IN: Manager Kevin Cash said the Rays will wait a few more days before deciding who will be used as the fifth starter, and whether he will pitch Friday or Saturday.
The most likely scenario may be using RHP Erasmo Ramirez and several other relievers for what amounts to a "bullpen" day. That will depend on how heavily they are used in the interim.
RHP Matt Andriese, the most likely candidate if they opt for a callup, is set to start tonight for Triple-A Durham. But unless the Rays hold him back or limit him to a few innings, he wouldn't be of much help.
ALL SMILES: LHP Drew Smyly was frustrated Saturday in Baltimore when the game was delayed then, after he warmed up, called off. He instead will start tonight, viewing Saturday as a second bullpen session since his April 4 season debut. "No difference, I'm just pitching a few days later," he said.
CATCHING ON: Hank Conger started behind the plate Tuesday in what has thus far been an alternating basis with Curt Casali, but Cash said the matchups — primarily with the opposing starters — just worked out that way, and they won't stay in that pattern.
ALEX THE GREAT: Pitching for the first time since April 5, and for the first time coming in with a lead, RHP Alex Colome was sharp, retiring Cleveland 3-4-5 hitters Francisco Lindor, Mike Napoli and Carlos Santana.
MISCELLANY: The Rays have homered in a team-record 21 straight games, the longest streak in the majors since the 2013 Mariners did 23. … A Durham INF Richie Shaffer was named International League batter of the week for hitting .538 (7-for-13 with seven RBIs in four games.