ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays are glad to be back at Tropicana Field after going 0-5 against D-backs and Dodgers on their road trip.
"Normally, I like going out there," said manager Joe Maddon, who spent 31 years coaching with the Angels. "The weather is always great. I got to see Pasadena for the first time. Very cool vibe, but they did not treat us kindly."
Not long ago, the Rays were the hottest team in baseball, but the trip marked the first time since 2008 that they have come back from a multi-series road swing without a win.
"We're not playing our best right now," David Price said. "We played extremely well before that, and it put us in the position we're in right now. Even though we've struggled over the last week, we're still in a very good position at the end of the year. We need to attack every game like we have so far, and we'll find ourselves in a good spot for the last week of the season."
The future appears bright in Tampa Bay as two former pieces of the starting rotation, Alex Cobb and Matt Moore, are poised to return from the disabled list before the Rays leave for Baltimore next week.
When the Rays briefly gained an edge on the Red Sox for first place in the American League East, their starters had thrown a handful of complete games. Price was the only starter to pitch into the fifth inning on the road trip.
"The pitching is in a pretty good spot," Maddon said. "We just need to get [Cobb and Moore] back out there, and when we do, everything kind of works off of that."
Cobb eager to take the hill for Thursday start
ST. PETERSBURG -- Rays starter Alex Cobb will start Thursday's game against the Mariners. The start will be Cobb's first since June 15 when he was struck in the head with a line drive off the bat of Kansas City's Eric Hosmer in the fifth inning.
"I'll probably get those first-time-out jitters and the adrenaline going," Cobb said. "I'm really looking forward to getting out there again."
Manager Joe Maddon will limit Cobb to "around 90 pitches."
After a long layoff, three rehab starts and a bout with a blister on his right index finger, Cobb said he expects Thursday to feel like his first start of the season.
He added that he's excited to start at home in front of the same fans who saw him get injured.
"The fans have been so supportive through all this, whether they're sending in letters or tweeting me," Cobb said. "It's going to be nice to make my return in front of them."
Cobb was arguably the team's most effective starter before the injury with a 6-2 record and a 3.01 ERA. He saw the boost his teammates received when David Price returned from the disabled list in July in impressive fashion and will look to provide a similar effect.
"My mindset will be the same as it was when I was pitching before," Cobb said. "Hopefully the competitive side of me will take over, and I'll be able to keep this team in the ball game."
Newly acquired reliever Wright learning Rays' ways
ST. PETERSBURG -- College football was in the air at Tropicana Field as newly acquired reliever Wesley Wright arrived in the clubhouse.
Wright, a native of Montgomery, Ala., and an avid Auburn Tigers fan, had a message for his new teammate Desmond Jennings, a Birmingham native and Alabama Crimson Tide supporter.
"I said, 'War Eagle' to him when I saw him in the training room," Wright said. "I think he was surprised I came with that."
"He said War Eagle…But I didn't hear it," Jennings quipped back.
After pitching in just three games in his latest Majors stint, reliever Josh Lueke was optioned to Triple-A Durham to make room for Wright, who was claimed off waivers from the Astros on Monday.
Wright's ERA (3.92) is elevated compared to his last two years in Houston, but he said he's been "a little unlucky." Nonetheless, he is excited to be a part of a team in the hunt for a playoff spot.
"This clubhouse is a little more experienced," he said. "We had 14 rookies in Houston. That's tough at times, because a lot of people are learning on the job. To come here with guys who are established, you can rely on your teammates. It's going to be great."
Manager Joe Maddon said he plans to use the left-hander primarily against left-handed hitters.
• Reliever Jesse Crain (right shoulder strain) played catch with head athletic trainer Ron Porterfield on Tuesday. Maddon said he "threw the ball well."
• Reliever Brandon Gomes' (right lat strain) velocity is "back to normal," according to Maddon. He remains on a rehab assignment with Triple-A Durham.
• Jennings (left middle finger fracture) began gripping a bat on Monday, and he plans to start swinging on Wednesday.
• Designated hitter Luke Scott and reliever Jake McGee will visit with children at All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg on Thursday.
Sam Strong is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.