ST. PETERSBURG — New Rays LHP reliever Wesley Wright wasted little time showing he fit in with the team's loose clubhouse.
Wright, 29, acquired Monday from the Astros for cash considerations, is a big Auburn fan and made sure to say the team's battle cry, "War Eagle," to CF Desmond Jennings, an Alabama fan.
"It was a good little joke," Wright said, smiling.
Then Wright went out and displayed Rays-like resilience in a bounce-back debut against the Mariners. Wright entered in the sixth with one on and no outs in a tie game and gave up a go-ahead RBI triple on a fastball to Dustin Ackley that got too much of the plate. Wright, however, held firm, retiring the next three hitters, two on strikeouts, to strand Ackley at third.
"It was a good opportunity for me to show that I'm resilient and that I'm here to help contribute," he said.
Manager Joe Maddon said he'll primarily use Wright against lefties, but he believes he can pitch through righties, as he did Tuesday.
"I was pleased with that," Maddon said. "I thought he looked very calm and aggressive and definitely is going to help us. … He could be a very, very important part of our bullpen."
Wright, in Houston his first six seasons, was surprised to get traded, especially once the non-waiver deadline passed. He felt shock, excitement and sadness all at the same time but is pumped to join a pennant race.
Wright has fond memories of pitching at the Trop, recalling his big inning-ending strikeout of Carl Crawford during his rookie season in 2008 with his parents in the stands. "That's something I've never forgotten," he said.
When Wright came to the Trop before the All-Star break, he told teammates he enjoyed playing here.
Said Wright: "It's kind of funny that I'm here now as a Ray."
ON TARGET: The Rays announced that RHP Alex Cobb will rejoin the rotation Thursday against the Mariners. Cobb is both relieved and excited to be able to return to the Trop mound for the first time since getting hit in the head with a line drive June 15. "I'll probably get those first-time-out jitters and the adrenaline going," he said. "It'll probably feel like another opening day."
Cobb, who suffered a mild concussion, said he healed a lot more quickly than doctors expected, with a blister on his right index finger the only thing that slowed his rehab process. During his recovery, Cobb said he was able to exchange text messages — and stories — with Blue Jays LHP J.A. Happ, who was also struck in the head with a liner on the same mound in May. Cobb said he'll always root for Happ, who starts Saturday against the Rays: "It's nice to see him back in a big-league uniform."
ON THE MEND: Jennings said his fractured left middle finger is feeling better, and though there's still some swelling, he hopes to be able to return to the lineup Monday, the day he's eligible. "That's the plan," he said. He said he was just cleared to grab a bat and expects to take some swings the next couple of days. "The main thing right now is getting the grip back," Jennings said. "It's getting there."
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PEN NOTES: RHP Jesse Crain (shoulder strain) played catch with head athletic trainer Ron Porterfield before Tuesday's game, with Maddon saying it went "really well." Maddon said they're also eager for the return of RHP Brandon Gomes, who has been out with a lat strain since May 10. "He's lurking right now, he's on the horizon," Maddon said. "He missed a long time and we really want to make sure he's well. I hear his velocity is back up and the stuff is starting to get back to normal."
MISCELLANY: Maddon said he'll know more today about the next step for LHP Matt Moore (left elbow soreness), who could rejoin the rotation this weekend. … Rays broadcaster Andy Freed missed Tuesday's game as his son had surgery, but all went well and he's hoping to be back soon.