ST. PETERSBURG — The statistical results are somewhat similar. But the work that has taken him there has been extremely different.
In the six starts RHP Wade Davis made at the end of last season, he was 2-2 with a 3.72 ERA. In the six starts he has made to begin this season, he is 3-2 with a 3.18 ERA.
"Smarter," Davis said. "Physically, as the season goes on, you're better, you get stronger. At that point my stuff was coming together better than at this point.
"I recognize situations now. I think that's the biggest thing. When stuff starts to go bad, I know now what I need to do. I'm picking up stuff all the time. I'm going to get stronger, and I think I'm going to get better. I can only go up."
Davis, 24, has fit well into the Rays rotation and clubhouse. But he said there are still times he feels like the rookie he is.
"I don't think I could ever get too comfortable in the big leagues; I don't think that will ever happen," he said. "So, yeah, I feel like a rookie. And I've still got a lot to prove."
Having faced opposing aces in his first six starts, Davis now takes on a new role. He will kick off tonight's homestand, next week's road trip to New York and Houston, and the following homestand.
"That's pretty big to win that first game," he said. "I feel really good. I felt really good about my bullpen, and I feel great physically. I just want to get out there and start a good little pace for the homestand."
THE ZO' SHOW: The Rays liked enough of what they saw of Ben Zobrist at first base Tuesday that they don't plan to see any more of Willy Aybar there.
By playing Zobrist at first on the rare days when Carlos Peña is off, the Rays can use Reid Brignac or Sean Rodriguez at second (and Gabe Kapler in rightfield) and allow the defensively challenged Aybar to handle DH duties.
"For the most part we'd rather keep Willy doing what he's doing and utilize our defenders first," manager Joe Maddon said.
PONDERING Peña: Agent Scott Boras said he hasn't heard anything from the Rays about a new contract for Peña, who can become a free agent after his three-year, $24.125 million contract expires, and Boras doesn't expect to until October.
Still, he is already preparing his pitch.
"There aren't many people that do what Carlos does," Boras said. "He's a complete player. He's a Gold Glove-type first baseman. He got hurt last year, and he still had 39 homers and tied for the league lead.
"In the new era of baseball, the one thing that is lacking (power) is the one thing that Carlos has. And then you add the fact that he's a complete player on top of it. It's a rare commodity. Plus you add Carlos as a person and as a teammate and all those qualities."
MISCELLANY: RHP Jeff Bennett was released from Triple-A Durham after going 0-3 with a 10.97 ERA in three games. … RHP Matt Bush is on the disabled list at Class A Charlotte after two appearances.