Tampa Bay Rays at Chicago White Sox series primer

Tampa Bay's David Price pitched his first complete game of the season on Tuesday in a 7-3 win over the Minnesota Twins. Price is slated to start Sunday against the White Sox.

Kim Klement/Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Where are you, Alex Cobb and Jeremy Hellickson?

With each week, it has become clear that the returns of the two from the disabled list will be embraced with open arms in early June. The Tampa Bay Rays are laboring to escape their funk in the rotation, and there’s no easy resolution to the matter.

After left-hander David Price earned his first complete game of the season Tuesday in a victory over the Minnesota Twins, right-hander Jake Odorizzi and left-hander Erik Bedard were knocked around in the second and third games of the series. To little surprise, the bullpen is taxed as the Rays begin a 10-game road trip to Chicago, Boston and New York.

Odorizzi was a deserving winner of the fifth-starter job in spring training, but his start Wednesday in a no-decision was forgettable. He allowed four runs and five hits in 3 1/3 innings. Meanwhile, Bedard didn’t fare much better in allowing four runs and five hits in four innings in a loss Thursday.

No one expected this hurdle to be simple to overcome. Hellickson is out because of arthroscopic surgery on his right elbow, and Cobb is absent because of a left oblique strain. Another capable depth piece in right-hander Alex Colome is missing because he’s serving a 50-game suspension for taking the PED Boldenone. But there’s reason for concern after how much weight was placed on the bullpen in the two losses against Minnesota.

Simply put, Rays’ starting pitching must improve. Price has been steady, except for when he allowed six runs and 10 hits in a loss to the New York Yankees on April 17 at Tropicana Field. But Odorizzi, Bedard, right-hander Chris Archer and left-hander Cesar Ramos have all looked shaky at times. A correction must come fast.

So it’s on to Chicago, where the White Sox have won three of five games since last Sunday after dropping four consecutive from April 16-19.

Here’s a look at the upcoming Rays-White Sox series…

SCHEDULE AND PROBABLE PITCHERS

If the cap fits

April 25 (Sun Sports — pregame coverage begins at 7:30 p.m.) Chris Archer (2-1, 3.65 ERA) vs. Erik Johnson (1-1, 5.32 ERA)

April 26 (Sun Sports — pregame coverage begins at 6:30 p.m.) Cesar Ramos (0-1, 4.91 ERA) vs. John Danks (2-0, 2.84 ERA)

April 27 (Sun Sports — pregame coverage begins at 1:30 p.m.) David Price (3-1, 4.04 ERA) vs. TBA

April 28 (Sun Sports — pregame coverage begins at 7:30 p.m.) Jake Odorizzi (1-2, 6.52 ERA) vs. Andre Rienzo (1-0, 4.91 ERA)

WHO’S HOT

1B James Loney (Rays): He hit .462 with nine RBI and four doubles in 26 at-bats in six games from April 18-24. He has hit .301 with one home run and 14 RBI for the season.

LF Dayan Viciedo (White Sox): He hit .500 with one home run and five RBI in 28 at-bats in seven games from April 18-24. He has hit .377 with one home run and nine RBI for the season.

WHO’S NOT

SS Sean Rodriguez (Rays): He hit .154 with two RBI and five strikeouts in 13 at-bats in five games from April 18-24. He has hit .185 with three home runs and seven RBI for the season.

CF Jordan Danks (White Sox): He hit .077 with two RBI and 12 strikeouts in 26 at-bats in seven games from April 18-24. He has hit .094 with one home run and three RBI for the season.

Tampa Bay Rays on FOX Sports Sun

STORYLINES

24: At-bats that Rays outfielder David DeJesus had gone without a hit before breaking out for three with three RBI in a 7-3 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday at Tropicana Field. He has hit .176 with one home run and five RBI for the season.

3 1/3: Innings that right-hander Jake Odorizzi pitched in a no-decision during the Rays’ 6-4 loss to the Twins on Wednesday at Tropicana Field. He allowed four runs and five hits in the appearance. It marked his shortest outing of the season.

5: Hits allowed by the Rays against former Tampa Bay utility man Sam Fuld, who was claimed off waivers by the Twins last Sunday. He went a combined 5 for 10 with three RBI in his return to Tropicana Field. He played for the Rays from 2011 to 2013.

QUOTE BOARD

"An error was made when replay officials and supervisors mistakenly thought one of the pitches was a foul ball when it was actually a ball." — Major League Baseball in a statement after Rays shortstop Yunel Escobar struck out on a 4-2 count in the fifth inning of Tampa Bay’s victory Tuesday. On Wednesday, manager Joe Maddon called for Escobar’s strikeout to be changed to a walk.

"I’d like to see him a little more aggressive with his fastball. When you try to trick so many guys soft early, it leads to high pitch counts also." — Maddon on right-hander Jake Odorizzi after the Rays’ loss Wednesday. Odorizzi has allowed a combined 14 runs and 20 hits in his last three starts.

"I couldn’t really throw strikes in the first inning. I was just trying to battle and throw it in the strike zone, but I had a couple of walks in the first and I got better as the game progressed." — Left-hander Erik Bedard, after he allowed four runs and five hits in four innings in the Rays’ 9-7 loss to the Twins on Thursday at Tropicana Field. He allowed two hits and four walks in the first inning.

LOOKING AHEAD

April 29-May 1 — Rays at Red Sox

You can follow Andrew Astleford on Twitter @aastleford or email him at aastleford@gmail.com.