ANAHEIM, Calif. — RHP Alex Cobb's start tonight against the Angels should be telling.
Manager Joe Maddon said it will be a good way for the Rays to be sure Cobb has corrected the pitch-tipping issues that marred his May 1 big-league debut against the same Angels.
"I'm kind of eager to see it because you're going to find out if it's been cured or not," Maddon said.
And Cobb said that though it's only his third start overall, it will provide a good measure of how he has become more comfortable in the big leagues.
"I think it will be a good sample size to kind of judge how far I've come since that first start," Cobb said.
The Rays noticed early in Cobb's first game that the Angels seemed to know what type of pitch he was throwing and either took more aggressive swings or laid off accordingly. Video showed that the positioning of his glove was indeed a tipoff as he allowed four runs on four hits and four walks in 41/3 innings. Cobb was sent back to Triple A after the game as planned, and he worked with the coaches there plus pitching coordinator Dick Bosman on correcting the flaw.
When Cobb was recalled for a May 31 start against the Rangers, the Rays watched him closely as he worked into the seventh, allowing three runs on four hits.
"We were looking to see if anything was showing up," Maddon said. "We didn't see it, and Texas certainly didn't show us that anything was going on. So this is an even better test. … We're pretty confident that he's over it."
The Angels, naturally, claimed to know nothing about Cobb tipping pitches. "I wouldn't tell you if we did — but I will say we did not have anything on that kid," manager Mike Scioscia said Monday. "Maybe they (the Rays) saw a tendency when they evaluated their film afterward."
Overall, Cobb, 23, said he is just more at ease. Plus he has the benefit of taking a somewhat regular turn, though pitching on six days' rest.
"I feel a lot better; I feel a lot more calm," he said. "I think it's going to carry over to the field and make me more relaxed out there."
J.P. DUTY: Struggling LHP J.P. Howell said he would benefit from pitching more often and also on a less structured basis, and Maddon is willing to try it, taking off the limitation of not using Howell, who is coming back from May 2010 shoulder surgery, on back-to-back days.
"I think he's beyond that," Maddon said. "We did a great rehab … he looks really strong to me. I just think more than anything he needs to pitch a little bit more often to really get his sharpness back, and that's what we're going to give him a chance to do."
Howell, 0-1 with an 18.90 ERA over five appearances, said he welcomed the opportunity to just go back to pitching when needed. "I'm ready to not be on a schedule," he said. "I like it better when I get a little butterflies going at 2 o'clock every day."
CORMIER RETURNS: RHP Lance Cormier, who spent 2009-10 in the Rays bullpen, signed a minor-league contract and will join Triple-A Durham.
Cormier, 30, was released last week by the Dodgers, having posted an 0-1, 9.88 mark in nine appearances after making the team out of spring training.
Cormier, who was 7-3, 3.55 in 115 games for the Rays, said he was pleased to be back in the Rays organization: "No doubt."
Also, RHP Edgar Gonzalez was released from Durham.
MISCELLANY: DH Johnny Damon extended his streak of reaching base to a career-best 32 games, five shy of Ben Grieve's team record. … RHP Andy Sonnanstine said he had no issue with being moved back to the bullpen: "If that's the best way I can help this squad, then that's where I need to be." … Maddon caught the ceremonial first pitch from former Angels OF Rick Reichardt.