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Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Alex Cobb feeling calm before major-league debut

ST. PETERSBURG — RHP Alex Cobb was the predictable mess when he got word Friday that instead of starting for Triple-A Durham in Louisville he would make his major-league debut for the Rays today.

But once the 23-year-old got the plane flights and the hotel rooms and the ticket requests for the 40 or so friends and relatives coming in squared away, and once he made it to the Trop on Saturday, talked to a few of his new teammates and met with Stan Boroski, the assistant to the pitching coach, to go over the hitters, Cobb felt unexpectedly calm.

"I thought it'd be the opposite, but it's actually calmed me down a lot so far," Cobb said. "We'll see how I feel (today)."

The Rays needed a starter after Tuesday's rainout pushed RHP Wade Davis back a day, and Cobb will fill that spot then return to Durham, where he was an impressive 3-0, 2.05, as the Rays made the first of several roster moves over the coming days.

LHP Jake McGee (5.15 ERA, .367 opponents average) was optioned to Durham, where the Rays hope he'll improve with more regular work, and will be replaced after Cobb's start by a another reliever, with the most likely choice RHP Brandon Gomes, who has a 1.35 ERA and six saves in six tries for the Bulls.

3B Evan Longoria is also expected back by Tuesday, with INF Felipe Lopez seemingly most likely to go (more so than 1B Dan Johnson) if INF Sean Rodriguez's dislocated left pinkie doesn't require a trip to the DL. Rodriguez said he regained considerable flexibility Saturday and "most definitely" will be full go by Tuesday.

Cobb gets put in a tough slot, facing Angels ace Jered Weaver, he of the 6-0, 0.99 mark. "Might as well go up against the best, huh?" Cobb said. "I'm just going to take the approach that it's just any other game, any other opponent."

Manager Joe Maddon said he has been impressed with Cobb, who hadn't pitched above the Double-A level, since spring training. "I liked his stuff a lot, liked his composure a lot," Maddon said. "I really do anticipate him to pitch well."

McGee didn't have to be sent down but should benefit, Maddon said. "He has things to work on, and it would be good for him to pitch on a more consistent basis because he's a huge part of our future."

REHAB REPORT: Longoria (left oblique strain) went 1-for-3 with a homer, a walk and two runs in his third rehab appearance for Double-A Montgomery. In three games his is 3-for-11 with two homers. He is scheduled to take today off, play nine innings Monday then rejoin the Rays. … LHP J.P. Howell (left shoulder surgery) makes the fourth of his 10 scheduled rehab appearance today for the Class A Stone Crabs, starting the 1:30 p.m. game in Port Charlotte. He is on track for a mid May return.

DOUBLE TROUBLE: C Kelly Shoppach managed to make two outs in the fifth without swinging the bat. He took a called third strike then was called for interfering with C Hank Conger's throw to second.

MISCELLANY: OF Sam Fuld extended his hitless streak to a career-worst 0-for-18, dropping his average from .350 to .289 in four games. … The Rays are 26-3 on concert days. … The pitchers have started taking batting practice, and LHP David Price took a playful home run trot after knocking a ball into the rightfield seats.

Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Alex Cobb feeling calm before major-league debut 04/30/11 [Last modified: Saturday, April 30, 2011 11:55pm]

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