ST. PETERSBURG — Opening a late July homestand with a legitimate run for a playoff berth in sight makes Friday's start a big one for veteran RHP Alex Cobb.
But were the Rays not playing so well, and Cobb not such a big part of their success, the free-agent-to-be may well have been looking at this week as significant in a different way — his farewell performance in anticipation of being traded by the July 31 deadline.
"I don't any more," Cobb said. "If you would have asked me that in spring training I might have, but I just don't see it.
"The opportunities are so rare to get into a position to be able to compete and have a real chance at a playoff spot that you have to do everything you can as an organization to take advantage of it.
"And I hope that I fit in those plans."
At 8-6, 3.59 through 19 starts in his first full season back from May 2015 Tommy John surgery, Cobb certainly seems to.
And rather than looking to trade Cobb or other pending free agents, the Rays are in what for them is an unusual position of trying to add on, in talks for a proven reliever and a right-handed bat.
"You never know what's going to happen; we always had faith that we'd be in a position to be in a playoff push," Cobb said. "Now that we are, I don't envision anything happening to the core of this club."
As one of the few players left from the Rays' 2008-13 postseason runs, and only pitcher with a playoff win for the Rays, Cobb knows all 66 remaining games are important.
"(But) you really have to take care of business at home; that's really an understatement," he said. "You're most comfortable there, you're most well built for competing at home. We know we a tough schedule coming up, whether it's at home or on the road. So me personally having the first game of that series, a tough team in Texas, setting the tone early that we're going to be pushing hard the whole game, I think that's the biggest mindset going into that series.
"Coming off a West Coast trip with a day off, it can be easy be to dragging a little bit. I think it's the starting pitcher's responsibility to kind of bring that tempo."
But he carries a big stick
OF Shane Peterson keeps a low profile, but his go-ahead single in the ninth inning Tuesday was the latest in a series of big/dramatic hits he's gotten during limited playing over two stints with the Rays. "He definitely doesn't say much," manager Kevin Cash said. "He was in spring training for six weeks and I don't know if I heard him say a word. I know he's getting more comfortable around this group. And he has been doing some big things. … He gives a lot of good at-bats. He makes right-hand pitchers really work. … He's not a guy who goes up looking to do too much, he just takes his hits."
Good news on Souza; MRI shows 'no damage'
The Rays got good news on RF Steven Souza Jr., as an MRI showed "no damage" to his left hip. Souza left Wednesday's game after an awkward first-inning slide left him in pain and with what the team said was a strained hip. X-rays in Oakland were negative, but the Rays said he needed further testing in St. Petersburg. The concern was elevated because Souza had September surgery on the same hip. With the good results from the MRI, the Rays say Souza — among the team's most productive players with a .271 average, 20 HRs, 60 RBIs and an .883 OPS — is considered day to day. Souza posted a similarly positive update on his Twitter account: "After an uncoordinated slide, it appears that everything looks good! So thankful for all those who prayed for me."
• Add Marlins closer RHP AJ Ramos to the list of relievers the Rays have serious interest in.
• Injured OF Kevin Kiermaier will be signing autographs and taking photos Saturday to benefit the Trop's Ted Williams Museum Scholarship Fund, 5:10-7:10 at Gate 1, for a $20 donation. Photos, bats and balls will be available for purchase.
• Having raved about the energy at the Trop during the pre-break Red Sox series, Cash made a pitch for support this weekend. "I expect we'll have some fans there being supportive of the way we've played (4-2) since coming out of the break."
• RHP Danny Farquhar was released from Triple-A Durham, where he had been outrighted after being designated for assignment June 29.
• Top draft pick Brendan McKay got his first, and second, pro hits on Wednesday for short-season Class A Hudson Valley. While playing first and DH, McKay is also working toward his first pitching appearance, possibly by the end of next week.
• Prospect RHP Jose De Leon (lat strain) threw three perfect innings for the Gulf Coast League Rays on Wednesday in his first minor-league rehab game.
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• The Rays athletic training staff, Kiermaier and SS Matt Duffy will take part in Saturday's Trop event for the PLAY (Promoting a Lifetime of Activity for Youth) campaign.