ST. PETERSBURG -- Rays manager Joe Maddon knows that David Price and James Shields are set to start the team's first two games in the team's upcoming road trip to Texas, but as of Saturday he was unsure of the third.
With the way the current rotation is set up, Alex Cobb is set to be slotted into the position, but Maddon may choose to swap his spot with Matt Moore, who would be pitching the next game.
"I have to talk to [pitching coach Jim Hickey], I haven't talked to him yet," Maddon said. "I don't have any strong feelings about it right now. Part of it is looking into Toronto also, how does that play. ... They're both throwing the ball well right now, it's not like one guy is better than the other, they're both good."
Maddon added that he's been mulling over different ideas for his rotation, complicated further with Jeff Niemann set to come off the disabled list soon. But Cobb, who is coming off his first career complete game shutout, has pitched well over the past month and it could be difficult to remove him from the rotation when Niemann returns.
"We've been sitting down, going over a bunch of different ideas," Maddon said. "We've been working on this whole elaborate sheet that pretty much goes from now until the end of the year and that also includes figuring out how to pop Niemann in there, too. We have all these different thoughts going on, we're not specific yet."
Niemann is set to make his second rehab start with Triple-A Durham and fourth overall on Saturday. In his last start for the Bulls, Niemann went 4 1/3 innings, allowing four runs on 12 hits and three strikeouts.
Maddon also hasn't ruled out starting to roll back the innings that Moore and Cobb have pitched in order to keep his young arms fresh down the stretch by having somebody either skip a start or popping a pitcher, like Niemann, in.
Lately, it hasn't seemed to matter whoever takes the mound for the Rays. The club is on a run that few teams have been on before. In fact, the last four teams to have an ERA as low as Tampa Bay's 3.25 mark have gone on to the World Series, with two teams winning it.
Only one pitching staff has led the American League in ERA, strikeouts and opponent's batting average in the last 25 years -- the 1999 Red Sox. Right now, the Rays with their ERA, 1,045 punchouts and .232 batting average against lead the league in each category.
There are just 221 strikeouts separating the Rays from the American League record, as well, held by the 2001 Yankees. Their 45 double-digit strikeout games are the best by an AL team since 1918 when records were first kept on it, but trail the Nationals by two this season.
"This is a little above and beyond right now," Maddon said about the pitching. "I thought they'd be good, but what they're doing more recently is, I guess, record-setting, historically. I have a lot of faith in all these guys."
Protests possible with RNC coming to Tampa
ST. PETERSBURG -- The starting time for Saturday's Rays-Athletics contest at Tropicana Field was 1:10 p.m. ET due to the urgency to clear the facility in advance of hosting Sunday's Republican National Convention welcome party.
The Republican National Convention will be held this week in Tampa Bay. The Rays had a meeting with a member of the Secret Service this week to discuss the handling of a potential protest during the game.
"I've heard about it," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "They've discussed the potential with us. ... I guess you have to respect their preparedness. But I'm not concerned and I think everything is being prepared and they're ready for any kind of potential demonstration.
"He informed us about what they were doing in preparing for this day and for the event in general," Maddon said. "And also the potential concern for an attempted demonstration on the field during the course of the game, but they're definitely aware that it may occur, so everybody will be in the right position."
Maddon said the meeting had been out of mind until one reporter broached the subject.
"Until you brought it up to me, I forgot all about it," Maddon said. "So, I'd like to believe that all of our players did the same thing."
So what's the plan in the event of a disturbance?
"Depends if it's more than one person ... then you'd just come off the field," Maddon said. "If it's a typical attempt like a streak across the field, they send out their best defensive back and just tackle him."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. Greg Zeck is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.