Indians-Rays Preview

The Associated Press

The Tampa Bay Rays won the opener of this three-game set behind an impressive effort from one of the game's most promising young pitchers.

Rays fans have plenty of reasons to be excited about Alex Cobb, too.

Looking to build on Matt Moore's performance, Cobb takes the mound for his season debut as the Rays host the Cleveland Indians, who try to avoid a third straight loss Saturday night.

Moore appeared in midseason form during Friday's 4-0 win, striking out eight over six innings of two-hit ball. Tampa Bay's bullpen, which had compiled a 10.13 ERA over the first three games, followed with three perfect innings as the Rays (2-2) held Cleveland (2-2) off the basepaths after the fourth.

"It feels good for us to have a combined shutout like that," Moore said. "It's something we really work towards every game, and to have the first one of the year on my night feels nice."

The Rays now turn to Cobb, who enters 2013 with high expectations after compiling a 7-1 record and 3.09 ERA over his final 11 starts last year. The right-hander also turned heads in six spring training, posting a 2.81 ERA and striking out 28 over 25 2-3 innings.

"Cobb has been Cy Young himself," reigning AL Cy Young Award winner David Price said. "Cobb's been pitching the ball extremely well for us, hopefully he can just keep his confidence going throughout the regular season."

Cobb, who went 11-9 with a 4.03 ERA in 2012, has to be excited about debuting at home. He went 4-1 with a 1.75 ERA over five outings there down the stretch last season.

Cobb went 1-1 with a 4.82 ERA over two July starts against the Indians. He has held Cleveland newcomers Mike Aviles and Mark Reynolds hitless in a combined 11 at-bats.

Cobb faces an Indians team that, aside from an 8-for-17 effort with runners in scoring position during Thursday's 10-8 loss at Toronto, has gone 3 for 27 in such situations in its other three games, including 0 for 5 on Friday.

Cleveland will get a chance to see what it has in highly regarded 22-year-old Trevor Bauer. Acquired from Arizona as part of a three-team trade in December, Bauer will be called up to start in place of former Rays ace Scott Kazmir, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list due to a strained rib cage.

Bauer was knocked around in four major league starts last year, going 1-2 with a 6.06 ERA. The right-hander struck out 17 over 16 1-3 innings but issued 13 walks.

"There's a pretty bright future, a lot to like," manager Terry Francona said. "With most young pitchers, consistency of command is probably the thing that comes last. (He's) got tremendous arm speed, got a really good change-up."

With Carlos Carrasco expected to return from suspension next week, Bauer will be sent back down to Triple-A Columbus following Saturday's start.

Bauer will need to be wary of Ben Zobrist, who's gone 7 for 15 with a homer and seven RBIs thus far. The right fielder stayed hot Friday with two doubles and three RBIs.

"He went to the WBC, and I think that's a real important part of his start right now," manager Joe Maddon said. "He really takes that kind of thing seriously, so he came to camp ready to play."

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