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Tampa Bay Rays rookie Alex Cobb guilty of tipping his pitches

ST. PETERSBURG — Coming to the majors was quite a thrill for Rays RHP Alex Cobb. But his experience would have turned out better if he hadn't been letting the Angels hitters know what pitches were coming.

The Rays noticed early that the Angels had figured something out, apparently that Cobb was tipping his fastball, and pitching coach Jim Hickey took the unusual action of bringing Cobb up to the video room between innings to show him.

"It was obvious from the way they were swinging and not swinging they were on to something," Hickey said. "I don't think they knew change or curveball, but I think they knew hard or soft, and it becomes a heck of a lot easier."

Cobb, 23, tried to adjust but didn't show the command of his fastball the Rays expected. Between that complication and the nerves of his major-league debut, what with 40 friends and relatives (including his Purple Heart-winning brother R.J., who just got back from an Army assignment in Germany and flew down for the day from his new base in Missouri) watching, it may have been a little much.

"I wasn't trying to think about it," Cobb said, "but obviously it probably was in the back of my mind and it affected me a little bit."

He worked 41/3, charged with four runs, more troubled by the four walks than the four hits.

"This team has been on a roll for the past 3-4 weeks, just been tearing through people, and I don't want to come up here and slow that momentum down," he said. "After getting a five-run lead in the first you expect to just go out there and throw strikes and get your team at least into the fifth. That's what I'm upset about, not being able to go that long."

Otherwise, the Rays were pleased with what they saw.

"Oh man, he's going to be good for a long time," Hickey said. "I compare him really closely with (Jeremy) Hellickson in terms of fastball command, though that wasn't there today which I think is a byproduct of what we've been talking about. … He's going to have a great career."

ROSTER SHUFFLE: Cobb, as planned, was optioned back to Triple A after the game. He'll be replaced before Tuesday's game by a reliever, with RHP Brandon Gomes, a 26-year-old acquired from the Padres in the Jason Bartlett trade, seemingly the most likely choice. He is 6-for-6 in saves and has a 1.35 ERA in 11 games at Durham.

The Rays also plan to activate 3B Evan Longoria from the disabled list and are likely to drop veteran INF Felipe Lopez, who could be lost on waivers.

MEDICAL MATTERS: OF Sam Fuld was back with just slight bruising on his left eyelid, having been struck just above the eye by a bunted ball Saturday.

"I was hoping for worse," Fuld joked. "A war wound."

Fuld had concussion tests and a CAT scan Saturday night (both negative) and said he was ready to play Sunday but admitted the sequence left him shaken.

"It was scary," he said. "I can still see the image of the ball coming right at my face."

Fuld snapped his career-worst 0-for-18 streak with a first-inning double.

REHAB REPORT: LHP J.P. Howell (left shoulder surgery) made the fourth of 10 scheduled rehab appearances, working an inning for Class A Charlotte, throwing 20 pitches in allowing one hit and one walk. He'll move up to Durham and pitch Thursday, on track for a mid May return. … Longoria (left oblique strain) was off Sunday and plays his final rehab game tonight for Double-A Montgomery.

MISCELLANY: Manager Joe Maddon said that with today and next Monday off they may shuffle the rotation so that David Price and James Shields don't have too much rest between starts. … RF Matt Joyce had his team-high ninth multi-hit game and is hitting an AL-high .443 since April 10. … INF Sean Rodriguez returned after sitting out two games due to a dislocated left pinkie.

Tampa Bay Rays rookie Alex Cobb guilty of tipping his pitches 05/01/11 [Last modified: Sunday, May 1, 2011 9:34pm]
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