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Sunday, Oct 22, 2017
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Cobb savors his first major-league victory

ANAHEIM, Calif. - Before we get to Alex Cobb, the Rays' rookie pitcher of the moment, let's talk about Jeff Niemann, whose strained lower back is part of the reason Cobb is in the big leagues. Niemann will return to the rotation as soon as he is able, and because he has a final rehab start with the Durham Bulls early next week, Niemann likely won't be activated until after the Boston series. "Niemann gets his spot back," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "But down the road (Cobb is) definitely going to help out." Maddon was speaking after Tuesday's game when Cobb stymied the Angels bats for 61/3 innings. He allowed one run and earned his first major-league victory as the Rays won 4-1 for their first winning streak, albeit two games, since they won three straight May 11-13.
Even with Andy Sonnanstine struggling, Maddon said the Rays will resist the temptation of keeping Cobb at the major-league level as the long man in the bullpen. "Guys like that, you're messing with careers if you do that," Maddon said. The manager said Cobb is earmarked to be a future member of the Rays rotation, and the best way to ensure that is to send him back to Durham and allow him to continue his development as a starting pitcher. So, baring anything unforeseen, Cobb likely will toss his last big game for a while Monday when he starts against the Tigers at Detroit in the finale of his long road trip. While in Detroit, Cobb will give his dad, Rick, the game ball he earned Tuesday. Cobb struggled to find the words when asked about getting his first big-league win. The game hadn't been over long and Cobb was still a bit in shock from the Budweiser and Coors shower he took when he entered the shower. That's a big-league tradition. Win game, get doused with beer. "It's surreal. I don't think I've had time to comprehend it after that little shower," Cobb said. "It hasn't really sunk in yet, but it's awesome to know that it's going to bring a lot of joy to all of my family back home and some family that was able to come up (Tuesday). So, on that note, it makes me really happy." Handed a 1-0 lead in the first inning, Cobb allowed a leadoff single, then got Howie Kendrick to hit into a double play. The next two batters reach on infield singles. Alberto Callaspo followed with a laser that drove Matt Joyce to the wall in right, but the drive was nothing more than a long, loud out. Callaspo's drive started a stretch in which Cobb retired 14 of 15 batters, drawing comparisons from both Maddon and J.P. Howell to Jeremy Hellickson. "He's mellow like Hellickson," Howell said. "We're getting young guys who have a good stomach and can take it." Cobb's third big-league outing was more in line to his second start, when he held the Rangers to three runs on four hits in 61/3 innings and a far cry from his major-league debut, when nerves had him tipping his pitches, and the Angels responded by erasing a 5-0 first-inning hole. "I always question myself whether I would be able to carry over what I do at Triple-A and the minor leagues to the big leagues, and I feel real comfortable that I can now," he said. "It's not as big of a jump as I made myself think it would be. I think I can go out every game now and compete."

rmooney@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7227

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