ST. PETERSBURG — Slowly but steadily, the crowded sick bay of the Tampa Bay Rays is emptying out. Alex Cobb, who hasn't returned to the mound since he was hit in the head by a line drive June 15 and suffered a concussion, is slated to pitch in Thursday's series finale against Seattle. “I'm feeling a lot better,” said Cobb, 6-2 in 13 starts this season. “I'm really looking forward to being out there. When you're at home all day, watching your friends play, you realize how nice you've got it and you really learn to appreciate everything we've worked hard to get. It (the injury) was definitely an eye-opener.” Batters are hitting only .233 against Cobb, who is credited with nine quality starts.
“The big thing is not to try to do too much,” he said. “I've got to stay within myself. It'll be fun to get back out there.'' OF Desmond Jennings, recovering from a broken left middle finger, said he's making steady progress. “There's still a little swelling, but I grabbed a bat today,” said Jennings, eligible to come off the disabled list on Monday. “Hopefully, tomorrow I can start swinging and see how it feels. The main thing right now is getting my grip back. I didn't know it was fractured at first, but it's getting better every day.” Manager Joe Maddon said the Rays remain uncertain when starting pitcher Matt Moore will return. Moore has been out since July 29 with a sore left elbow. Sign of the times With the Rays mired in a five-game losing streak heading into Tuesdays' game, Yunel Escobar sent out a message in the locker room without uttering a sound. Tampa Bay's 30-year-old shortstop hung a sign around his neck with a simple four-word message: “We Need to Win.” When Maddon heard the news, he wasn't surprised. “That's very good,” he said. “He's always about winning. Yunel has great energy and he wants to win.” Escobar struck out in the first inning with two runners on base and singled in his second at-bat. Price is right Wednesday night's starter, David Price, hopes to continue his six-week roll since coming off the DL. Since July 2, Price is 5-1 with a 1.40 ERA. The reigning AL Cy Young Award winner has displayed impeccable control during that span, striking out 44 and walking only two batters in 641⁄3 innings. “As good as I was last year, I wanted to get better,” said Price, who went 20-5 last season. “I said there was a lot of room for improvement and I think I've made some of those strides.” Despite Tampa Bay's tailspin, Price said he remains confident the Rays have the right mental approach to prevail in the AL East. “We've hit a slump and we're going to get over it,” he said. “This team has done a very good job all year of taking it game by game. We never look ahead or look behind ... we focus on the task at hand.” Noteworthy Brad Miller's leadoff home run was Seattle's eighth of the season, setting a franchise record. Miller also homered in the fifth, doubling his season total to four... The Rays finished 12-8 in interleague play, losing their final five matchups. ...The last time the Rays and Mariners met, Seattle's Felix Hernandez threw the 23rd perfect game in major-league history.