ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays have been quick on occasion to pull RH starters Nathan Karns and Erasmo Ramirez from games this season, usually to avoid them attempting that treacherous third trip through the opposing lineup.As a byproduct, the Rays are not planning to pull the plugs on their seasons due to overall workload."I would not see that," manager Kevin Cash said. "We would probably be smart with both of them, but I don't foresee us saying, 'You're not starting anymore because of a concern of innings.' "Pitching-savvy teams such as the Rays tend to limit yearly innings increases for young pitchers and, as they did with LHP Drew Smyly last season and others before, will sometimes shut them down in September.Karns, a 27-year-old rookie in his first full major-league season, has thrown 136 innings over 24 starts and is lined up to make eight more, including tonight against the Twins, projecting roughly for 185 innings total (and a willingness on his part to push to 200). His career high for a season is 1571/3 in 2014, mostly at Triple-A Durham.Ramirez, 25, has thrown 123 innings and, with the potential of seven more starts, projects to about 165. Though he hadn't thrown more than 751/3 in the majors in three seasons with the Mariners, he did pile up a career-high 1672/3 last year over three levels."We talked about it the other day," Cash said. "We were looking at those two guys — both of them pitched a lot of innings last year, so they're fine, they're good to go." TWINS TARGETS: The Twins and Rays are among five teams tightly bunched in the race for the second American League wild-card spot, which makes the series that opens tonight at the Trop essentially like an intra-division showdown."Those are big games," Karns said. "If we can come out on top, that's going to help us out that much more."And Karns welcomes the chance to pitch in a "big" game."I'm not afraid of them," he said. A LONEY WORLD: MLB is expected to decide in the next day or so on potential discipline for 1B James Loney after his Saturday night confrontation with umpire Paul Nauert , with a one- or two-game suspension seemingly likely.But there is a question if Loney will be further "punished" by other umpires, who may have objected to Loney's comments about Nauert's personality and suddenly have larger strike zones."I do not think there would be any carryover at all, whatsoever, from the umpires," Cash said. "These guys, the umpires, deal with confrontation. They do a good job of handling that and they let it go. So there's no concern on that end." ALEX THE GREAT: The injury-related absence of LHP Jake McGee , following the trade of veteran RHP Kevin Jepsen (to the Twins), has made the ascension of RHP Alex Colome to high-leverage relief work well-timed."I don't think you replace Jake McGee," Cash said, "but with what Alex has done, we've definitely added a very valuable weapon at the back end of our pen."Colome, who worked the eighth inning Wednesday in Houston and the eighth and ninth Friday in Oakland, has a stellar 0.52 ERA over his past 11 relief outings, with 20 strikeouts and only three walks in 171/3 innings, allowing just a .179 opponents' average."There's no doubt he's evolved and really taken to the role that he's in," Cash said. "He's taken the opportunity and kind of run with it now. Colome has been great. But we've got a lot of other guys that have been really good in the bullpen, too. We'll continue to factor in those matchups. But we definitely like where he's at because we're going to need him going forward in that role." MISCELLANY: The Twins series marks the return not only of Jepsen but former Rays Triple-A pitching coach Neil Allen , a favorite of many current Rays, and Jesuit/FSU product OF Shane Robinson . … The Rays need to win at least two of the games against the Twins to avoid losing the season series for the first time since 2006. … The seven runs allowed in the seventh inning Sunday at Oakland matched the Rays' most for an inning this season. … 2014 top pick 1B Casey Gillaspie , out since fracturing his left hand in early July with Class A Charlotte, started a rehab assignment Monday, going 0-for-2 as the DH for the GCL Rays.