09/04/12 7:10 PM ET
Rays always willing to give role players a shot
By Greg Zeck / MLB.com
Catcher Stephen Vogt and right-handed reliever Dane De La Rosa are expected to be Tampa Bay's newest additions. Both players will arrive from Triple-A Durham and briefly spent time with the big league club earlier this season.
De La Rosa appeared in one inning for Tampa Bay, allowing five runs on four hits and two walks in a loss to Boston on April 14. Vogt, meanwhile, didn't fare much better, playing in 10 games for the Rays and going hitless in 17 at bats.
Despite both players struggling in their brief time in the Majors, Rays manager Joe Maddon believes each can find a way to contribute. He compared the situation to that of Dan Johnson, who ended up delivering clutch hits in his stints with the Rays.
"I don't know how we're going to use him; there's not that many opportunities, but he's done this in the past, so let's bring him along," Maddon said of his past thought process regarding Johnson. "If he's not here, you can't use him. I know that."
With five players having already been called up, Maddon did acknowledge it may be hard for some players to find time to take batting practice as the clubhouse fills up, adding that hitting in the cages would have to do.
Simplifying approach may be key for Pena
ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays will be giving away a Carlos Pena home run figurine prior to Wednesday night's 7:10 ET game against the Yankees, and the slugger wouldn't mind striking that pose over the next couple of days.
The 34-year-old Pena has struggled this year. He entered Tuesday with a .191 average and 17 homers but is coming off a 2-for-3 game in his last start, which came on Sunday against Toronto. He was back in the lineup on Tuesday against New York.
Pena, who entered Tuesday with 162 strikeouts -- the second most in the Majors -- recognizes that the numbers may not necessarily represent the production he was hoping to provide, but he is still confident he has what it takes to turn things around.
"I feel good about it," Pena said. "It's going to be a huge test of character. It's going to be a time of setting pride aside. All these clichés we use all the time -- we just want to stay in the present. The past is gone; you can't do anything about it."
But it's the past where Pena might find the key to helping the Rays down the stretch. He said he's been working with hitting coach Derek Shelton and looking at old film, trying to get back to the basics that made him successful.
In particular, Pena wouldn't mind reverting to the form he showed in 2008, when he hit .247 with 31 homers and helped Tampa Bay win the American League East title.
"As we go along in this career, we make so many adjustments; we try so many different things," Pena said. "After a couple years have gone by, you might be doing something totally different than you were a few years ago, just because you adjust on a daily basis. We're trying to get back to what's natural for me, what's easiest for me."
Rays careful not to overtax Cobb
ST. PETERSBURG -- Alex Cobb took the mound for the Rays against the Yankees on Tuesday, and the club will be keeping an eye on the number of innings he accumulates going forward.
Between his time in the Majors and at Triple-A Durham this season, Cobb entered Tuesday having thrown 148 innings, the most of his career.
The right-hander threw 139 2/3 innings in 2008, but after that campaign, his total per season didn't exceed 124 2/3 until this year. Between Triple-A and the Majors last season, Cobb made 21 starts and was limited to 120 innings because of an injury, and manager Joe Maddon is cautious about not overworking the righty.
"You almost have to go back to see where he was two years ago," Maddon said about a plan moving forward. "It's just using a little bit of common sense and watching him and seeing what you think, combining a baseball acumen with what we normally do."
To fend off fatigue, the Rays could consider adding an extra day of rest between Cobb's starts or another starter to their rotation to make spot starts. Jeff Niemann's status is uncertain because of right shoulder inflammation, but with expanded rosters, the team could add an arm from the Minors.
Maddon wouldn't elaborate on who might fill that role, but a possible candidate is righty Chris Archer, who made a pair of starts for the Rays while Jeremy Hellickson was on the disabled list earlier this season. Archer went 0-2 but pitched well in his 11 2/3 innings with the Rays, striking out 14 and posting a 3.86 ERA.
When Cobb has pitched this season, he's done well, going 8-8 with a 4.39 ERA entering Tuesday. The right-hander hadn't lost in his last six starts, winning four of them.
Greg Zeck is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.