ST. PETERSBURG The problem for Tampa Bay Rays top pitching prospect Alex Cobb in his major-league debut a month ago wasn't so much his pitches as the face that he was tipping them off.
The giveaway glove waggle was so blatant that pitching coach Jim Hickey took him into the video room during the game to point out what he was doing.
Cobb went back to Triple-A and worked on the flaw, and he's back to make his second major-league start tonight at Tropicana Field against the reigning American League champion Texas Rangers.
"We've got everything that we were questioning from that game figured out," the 23-year-old righthander said Monday night after the Rays added him to the 25-man roster and optioned reliever Brandon Gomes to Durham.
"It was just a matter of focusing on it, really. I wasn't thinking about it before. I put a little bit of thought into it, went out and threw some outings, and now I don't even have to think about it when I throw."
Cobb, who was 5-0 with a 1.14 ERA at Durham, made his Rays debut against the Angels on May 1. He pitched well enough to take a 5-1 lead into the fifth but ran into trouble and was relieved by Andy Sonnanstine.
The Angels scored four runs in the frame to tie the game and eventually won 6-5. Cobb was charged with four runs in 4 1/3 innings.
In four starts at Durham afterwards, Cobb went 2-0 with a 0.36 ERA with 25 1/3 innings pitched. He leads the International League in ERA, is tied for third in wins and 50 strikeouts to only 10 walks with two home runs allowed.
Manager Joe Maddon wants Cobb, who will pitch in injured Jeff Niemann's spot instead of Sonnasntine, to ignore the scouting reports on a Rangers lineup that hacked out 20 hits against the Rays in an 11-5 win Monday night and just "pitch his game."
He believes the former Vero Beach High strikeout king will be sharper his second time out.
"I think so," Maddon said. "Not only that, but I could see where he was giving it up a little bit to the other side. They knew what was coming. So advantage Angels to that point."
"Going out there with all that stuff corrected, I like his stuff. He's kind of like a (Jeremy) Hellickson. He pitches kind of like Helly, and I'd like to see how he does on a level playing field."
Cobb said it's an honor to be compared to Hellickson, the AL Rookie of the Year contender who is 6-3 with a 2.89 ERA as the Rays' supposed fifth starter.
"Coming up through the organization, he was a year ahead of me and was always the top dog," Cobb said. "I really enjoy watching him throw – he spots up his fastball really well, uses his offspeed well. I think any pitcher would want to model their game after that."