PORT CHARLOTTE — Pitcher safety was once again the topic of conversation after Cincinnati's Aroldis Chapman suffered fractures above his nose and left eye after being struck Wednesday in the face with a line drive.
“I can't believe it's already happened again,” Rays RHP Alex Cobb said. “I wouldn't say I was naïve to the fact that it wouldn't happen again, but this quickly is pretty amazing.”
Cobb, who suffered a concussion and missed two months last season after being struck on the right side of the head by a line drive, had much to say on the subject.
“Home plate collisions have been addressed since Day 1 in spring training. Helmets for pitchers haven't been talking about,” he said. “There's so many different changes right now, it might be far down on their list of things to address. Maybe this will bring it back up to the top.”
Rays manager Joe Maddon agreed.
“There was enough talk about it, and I would almost bet that moment (Wednesday) would accelerate us seeing a hat,” Maddon said.
Chapman would not have been saved by a padded cap since he took a direct hit to the face and the prototype does not include a face guard. But in the offseason, Major League Baseball approved a padded cap for pitchers to use this season. Cobb said he was willing to try one, but he hasn't seen one this spring.
“It's kind of made me angry about the cap,” Cobb said. “I was expecting when we first got here this year one would be in our training room for us to test out or throw a couple of bullpens in, some time before the games actually started. And then I figured by the games that we'd absolutely have one and there hasn't been anything available to us. I don't know if we're supposed to go online and find one on our own, but I haven't seen one yet.”
Cobb suggested the prototype, unveiled in January, was nothing more than MLB protecting itself in the event of another injury.
“just kind of feels like liability issue more than an actual care for pitchers' safety issue, but I could be wrong,” he said. “Maybe it's something that they're working on that's better and they want to promote first than this actual prototype. Maybe I'm speaking out of line, but I did think it would be available for us.”
Taking the fifth
LHP Cesar Ramos and RHP Jake Odorizzi each pitched four innings Thursday night against the visiting Twins during their final turns on the mound before the decision on who will be the fifth starter is made Saturday.
LHP Erik Bedard starts this afternoon against the visiting Blue Jays.
Ramos allowed four hits, walked a batter and struck out six in 4 2/3 innings.
“Cesar Ramos, honestly, I have to say it's the best I've ever seen him pitch,” Maddon said. “I'm not just talking about the results with the zeros. I'm talking about his composure, of the quality of the pitches he was making, his repitition of his delivery, i was really impressed with that.”
He threw 64 pitches (46 for strikes) and threw an additional 20 in the bullpen after he left the game.
“I would probably be lying if I said I wasn't (disappointed if he wasn't the fifth starter),” Ramos said. “I went out there and pitched the best I can. That's out of my control. If my role is best suited in the bullpen, so be it and I'll be ready to go.”
Odorizzi allowed three runs on six hits, including two in the ninth on four singles. Odorizzi threw 65 pitches, 45 for strikes.
Opener in 'jeopardy' for Oviedo
RHP Juan Carlos Oviedo faced batters for the first time Thursday afternoon since arriving in camp, throwing what Maddon called, “glorified BP.”
Maddon said Oviedo threw 35 pitches and looked good. But his chances of being ready for Opening Day on March 31 are not looking good.
“He is in jeopardy of not starting the season with us,” Maddon said. “You got to consider everything. This not participating in this spring normally even exaggerates even more based on what he's coming through.”
Oviedo has not pitched in the big leagues since Sept. 2012. He missed 2013 because of reconstructive elbow surgery.
“What really comes rushing to your mind is that he hasn't pitched in a while,” Maddon said. “So now you're going to rush him back under these circumstances, it might not be a good idea.”
The Rays optioned RHP Brad Boxberger to Triple A Durham, and reassigned OF Justin Christian, INF Cole Figueroa, OF/INF Jerry SAnds, C Ali Solis, RHP Steve Geltz, LHP Adam Liberatore, and RHP Juan Sandoval to minor league camp ... OF Matt Joyce may not play until Saturday because of a stiff neck suffered Wednesday. He received treatment Thursday and had trouble turning his head. He did say be bought a Tempurpedic pillow on the advice of assistant athletic trainer Paul Harker … RHP Jeremy Hellickson played catch Thursday, making 15 throws at 60 feet and 15 at 75 feet … Members of the Lafayette College club baseball team shagged fly balls during Thursday's BP.