ANAHEIM, Calif. — The four of them were gathered in David Price's hotel room Monday night playing their hockey video games when they looked around and realized what was going on.
For the first time since mid May, the top four starters in the Rays rotation — Price, Alex Cobb, Matt Moore and Jeremy Hellickson — were not just together again but all back pitching, their seasons interrupted by injuries.
"It's back to normal it feels like," Cobb said. "We were all sitting around in the hotel room the other day and we all said, 'Finally, we're going to be back together again and things would be the way they should be.' "
That would be a good thing, of course, for the Rays, as they play through the final month of the season looking to improve their playoff possibilities.
Price missed seven weeks starting in mid May with a triceps strain, and Cobb two months after being hit in the head June 15 by a line drive. Moore missed 5½ weeks because of a sore elbow until returning Tuesday, and Hellickson the last week for forced rest before pitching Wednesday.
"It's nice to have everybody back here, and it's nice to have everybody out there every five days," Hellickson said.
Manager Joe Maddon said having the top four back and pitching makes them "whole" and should make them confident going forward.
"We've been dealing with different kinds of pitching adversity since (Price's injury)," he said. "I think it reflects in our record a little. We probably would have had at least two, three more wins by now had the boys all been together and throwing like they could from the beginning.
"But it happens to everybody. I'll take it right now, keeping everybody healthy, keeping it moving forward."
Obviously each of the top four starters adds something to the rotation. But the sum of having them all together can be even greater.
"We've become close over the last three years, and I think we really feed off each other's energy," Cobb said. "Like we saw last year, everybody is trying to outdo the last previous starter's performance and it was a friendly competition. I think we're going to be able to start having that competition going again, and that together with the September run we're about to go on, it should definitely bring out the best in all of our performances."
He may be on to something, as each of the four won his first start back.