PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. (AP) — Everything went smoothly when Alex Cobb slowed down.
“When you start rushing like I was in the first game, you don’t give yourself a chance to catch up,” Cobb said of his outing Monday. “I worked on giving everyone a first-pitch curveball and was pretty successful with that. You can work in the changeup on that, and I think all three pitches were working well.”
Cobb rebounded from a rough start to pitch three overpowering innings, and the Tampa Bay Rays beat the Baltimore Orioles 4-1 Saturday.
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Cobb, who struggled to get through two innings against Boston on Monday, allowed just one hit and struck out five on 36 pitches.
“(He was) really sharp,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “That was really good. That was a really sharp. Easily could have gone nine.”
Nearly as good, Wei-Yin Chen gave up two hits in two innings in his spring training debut for Baltimore. Chen, who was 12-10 as the Orioles No. 2 starter last year, his first in the major leagues, needed only 23 pitches.
“I feel pretty satisfied for today,” Chen said through a translator. “It’s been too long for me. I think my command and breaking ball control is getting better and better this year.”
Chen’s spring debut came so late because he was recovering from a knee injury sustained against the Yankees in the division series last October.
“Last year, I felt a little scared about pitching because of soreness in my knee,” Chen said. “This year, I feel totally fine. I’m really lucky to be pitching again today.”
Orioles manager Buck Showalter says the plan is to ease Chen into spring training.
“Mostly, it was going to be a fastball day. It was a good start for him,” Showalter said. “It was good to get him out there. He’s where he needs to be.”
The Rays offense continued to produce, as SS Yunel Escobar hit a 2-run home run off LHP Brian Matusz, who then allowed a Ryan Roberts solo shot following Escobar, who was 2-for-3 Saturday.
“I really believe (Escobar) is a complete player,” Maddon said. “He’s going to hit. It’s in his DNA.”
Orioles left-hander Brian Matusz yielded consecutive homers to Rays shortstop Yunel Escobar, a two-run shot, and second baseman Ryan Roberts.
Rays infielder Sean Rodriguez got his first hit of the spring: an opposite-field solo shot to the Rays bullpen.
“We only got seven hits, but we hit the ball on the nose a lot,” Maddon said. “Really pleased with the game we had today.”
Rays closer Fernando Rodney kept his perfect spring alive, pitching a hitless third inning with a strikeout.
Rodney will stay with the team until Monday, when he will report to the Dominican Republic camp at the New York Yankees training complex in Tampa.
NOTES: Saturday’s game was the last the day of spring training for Rays’ Ben Zobrist (United States) and Jose Molina (Puerto Rico) before heading to their respective teams for the World Baseball Classic. . Rodriguez started in CF on Saturday, his first appearance at that position since 2010. Rodriguez played leftfield twice in 2012, but Maddon says Rodriguez will appear more in the outfield this season. . Orioles LHP Tsuyoshi Wada threw 30 pitches in his third bullpen session of the week. Wada is recovering from Tommy John surgery last May. … RHP Steve Johnson will get his first start on Tuesday against Toronto in Dunedin. . American League Cy Young Award winner LHP David Price will start Sunday against Minnesota in Port Charlotte . Saturday’s game between the Rays and Orioles is the first of four spring meetings. … Executive Director of the MLB Players Association Michael Weiner met with Rays players Saturday in his annual spring training trip. Weiner told media that the MLBPA agrees with the Commissioner’s office on its stance of the Rays stadium situation and that the union is also disappointed with Rays attendance, which was an MLB-worst in 2012. . The Rays reassigned RHP Matt Nevarez, RHP Jim Paduch, LHP Jimmy Patterson and LHP Neil Schenk to the minor league camp. . Baltimore leads the American League East in Spring Training at 6-2. The Rays are 6-3.