ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Rays received good news regarding a health concern Tuesday: Catcher Ryan Hanigan will avoid the disabled list.
Hanigan, who left a victory over the Los Angeles Angels on Friday at Angel Stadium early because of right hamstring soreness, worked out with head athletic trainer Ron Porterfield before the Rays began a three-game series against the Oakland Athletics at Tropicana Field. Though Jose Molina received the start at catcher Tuesday, Hanigan said he could be used if necessary.
"He could use me tonight," Hanigan said, referring to manager Joe Maddon. "Yeah, I think that was smart just giving me another day off. It was kind of a tough road trip. … I feel better today. I did all the stuff I’ve got to do baseball-wise."
The development was positive for Tampa Bay, which had limited options at catcher had Hanigan required a disabled-list stint. Before Tuesday, he had appeared in 36 games this season compared with Molina’s 20. The Rays didn’t have someone with significant experience at Triple-A Durham as a potential replacement.
Maddon called the situation "good news." He added that Hanigan should "absolutely" be available to play Wednesday against Oakland.
"It was pretty sore when I first did it," Hanigan said. "For the fact that it calmed down as much as it did, and I got it loosened up — the whole muscle is now loose."
COBB LIKELY TO START THURSDAY
The word isn’t official, but right-hander Alex Cobb gave strong hints he’ll return to the rotation Thursday in Tampa Bay’s series finale against Oakland.
Cobb, on the disabled list since April 13 with a left oblique strain, threw a successful bullpen session Monday that followed a five-inning rehab start for Class-A Charlotte on Saturday in Port Charlotte, Florida. He said there was normal soreness after the 64-pitch rehab outing, and he added that there were no negative effects from Monday’s bullpen session.
Cobb is likely to take left-hander Cesar Ramos’ place within the rotation. Ramos is 1-3 with a 4.58 ERA in 12 appearances (seven starts) this season, but he has allowed 13 runs (nine earned) in his past two against the Seattle Mariners and Angels.
"The time has kind of flown by for me," Cobb said. "There has been a lot of busy work going on and getting ready preparing."
Maddon was hesitant to officially name Cobb the starter Thursday, because the manager was waiting to "go through all the necessary conversations" before doing so. Still, Cobb is eager to return after his second significant DL stay in as many years.
"I’d say the difference is last year I wasn’t sure how I’d come back," said Cobb, referring to a mild concussion that kept him out two months last year. "It was more like, ‘Did I make some permanent damages?’ … There were some doubts going into it, I’d say. This time through, knowing the point I needed to get back to and understanding what makes me successful, that’s more my focus right now."
JENNINGS RETURNS, GOMES SENT DOWN
Center fielder Desmond Jennings was reinstated from the bereavement list, and right-handed reliever Brandon Gomes was optioned to Triple-A Durham before Tuesday’s game. Jennings hasn’t played since the victory over the Angels last Friday. He experienced a family death, and he has chosen to keep the details private.
Gomes, meanwhile, received praise from Maddon despite his demotion. Gomes had a 4.91 ERA with 14 strikeouts in 22 innings this season.
"He’ll be back, and he’ll be back for many years," Maddon said. "He’s a very good major league relief pitcher."
BEDARD LOOKS TO CONTINUE ROLL
Left-hander Erik Bedard has enjoyed momentum in recent starts, and he looks to continue the trend Wednesday when he takes the mound against Oakland. He has allowed one earned run in his last three appearances, after surrendering nine in the previous three from April 18-29.
Bedard has lasted at least 5 2/3 innings in his current three-start stretch. He failed to go longer than five innings in his first four appearances this season.
"You try to limit the damage, throw strikes, get them off speed and do the best you can," he said of facing the Athletics.
— Closer Grant Balfour greeted members of his old team during pregame work Tuesday. He was 9-7 with a 2.53 ERA and 64 saves in his time with Oakland from 2011-2013.
— Maddon said he encourages free speech in the Rays clubhouse, a topic that came up when he referenced Ramos’ displeasure of being pulled after 1 1/3 innings Saturday. Ramos was limited to 35 pitches in the outing.
— Maddon repeated his faith in utility man Logan Forsythe, who has disappointed with a .184 batting average and .259 on-base percentage. "I think he’s a really good baseball player," Maddon said. "I like his base-pad skills."
— The retro cologne collection that made its debut in Los Angeles appeared again in the Rays clubhouse. It seems to have grown.
— Members of the Wounded Warrior amputee football team appeared near the batting cage during Rays’ batting practice. They’re schedule to play against a team of former NFL/Tampa Bay Buccaneers players at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Plant High School in Tampa.