Wednesday, January 17, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays push back Alex Cobb's start by a day

BOSTON — RHP Alex Cobb's next start has been pushed back a day to Monday as the Rays wanted to give him extra rest.

Cobb was supposed to pitch in Sunday's series finale against the Red Sox, which would have put him on his regular five-day schedule thanks to Thursday's off-day.

But with Cobb having made just two starts since his six-week stint on the disabled list with an oblique strain, manager Joe Maddon said Friday that he thought it was "prudent" to ease him back when he had a chance. He said the move had nothing to do with Cobb getting hit in the right thigh by a liner Tuesday. LHP Erik Bedard is scheduled to start Sunday.

"It's all about keeping these guys healthy," Maddon said. "If we don't keep our pitchers healthy, we're not going anywhere. And getting Cobber back (from the disabled list), finally, was such a boost to us. So now I think it's wise to take care of him."

In delaying his start, Cobb will have to hit against the Marlins in Miami. But Maddon said neither Cobb nor head athletic trainer Ron Porterfield "feel as though there's a concern about swinging the bat," even with the past oblique issue.

ZO BACK: 2B Ben Zobrist's rehab stint didn't go as planned as he got sick early in the week and had to wait through a rain delay Wednesday in Port Charlotte.

But Zobrist said one game was all he needed to know he was ready to come back from a dislocated left thumb and was excited to get back in the lineup. Zobrist knocked in a run with a groundout in his first at-bat.

"I feel healthy. The DL time is done," Zobrist said. "I definitely want to be in there to help the team."

Zobrist said the thumb isn't an issue swinging or fielding, though he's more comfortable hitting from the left side. (He had four of his five at-bats left-handed for the Stone Crabs). The only protective brace he'll wear will be a padded mitten while on the bases. And after going on the DL each time he has tried his crafty head-first slide, Zobrist made another vow: "No more swim moves."

Maddon said Zobrist's return not only thickens the lineup, allowing them to move 3B Evan Longoria back to cleanup, but balances the bench.

CATCHING ON: C Jose Molina was back in the lineup, saying there was no residual issues from getting hit in the mask by a foul tip Wednesday. Molina said he didn't have to undergo any concussion tests.

"I'm good," he said.

Molina, who has started five of the past six games (but played in all six), said he's ready to take on a larger load with Ryan Hanigan on the DL, noting it helps him at the plate. (He's hitting .133.) Maddon said Molina also will start tonight with rookie Ali Solis making his first start Sunday.

Until Hanigan is back, Molina will start two of every three games.

"I just got to keep an eye on J-Mo," Maddon said. "Consecutive night games should not be bad. He took a pretty good bolt to the head the other night, but he seemed to be fine."

ON A ROLL: After admittedly over-using his new split-changeup early in the season, RHP Jake Odorizzi feels like he has found the right mix, which has led to a 1.66 ERA over his past four starts.

"Everything is starting to be more consistent than what it was at the beginning of the season, where you didn't know if it was going to be up and down or a roller-coaster ride," said Odorizzi, who starts today. "I'm starting to find that even keel where things are starting to get better in my mind that I can adjust in a lot of different situations."

MEDICAL MATTERS: SS Yunel Escobar left the game in the 10th with a tight left quad and is day to day. … RHP Jeremy Hellickson (elbow surgery) felt good after a bullpen session Friday and will throw a simulated game Monday. He is still targeting a late June return.

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