Cobb prepared to set tone on the road for '17

Right-hander readies to face the Yankees for the second consecutive start

Cobb prepared to set tone on the road for '17

ST. PETERSBURG -- For Rays starter Alex Cobb, wading through a difficult Yankees lineup in his first outing Wednesday was challenging enough as he opened what he hopes is his first full, healthy campaign since 2014.

Having to do it for the second time in six days when Tampa Bay embarks on its first road trip Monday at Yankee Stadium? It might force the right-hander to dig a little deeper into his arsenal.

Cobb, who missed all of 2015 recovering from Tommy John surgery before returning for five starts (1-2, 8.59 ERA) last September, was stout in leading the Rays to a 4-1 victory in his debut. He allowed one earned run -- a homer by Jacoby Ellsbury -- and struck out four with one walk in 5 2/3 innings to help the Rays take their first opening series in five years.

If there's one thing the 29-year-old can bank on, it's that he's been up to this kind of challenge in the past. In September 2014, Cobb made back-to-back starts against the Yankees and came through with two quality outings despite the Rays taking one-run losses in both.

Cobb's strong start

"It's very challenging. … I had a really good outing against them in New York, and then I came back and had to face them the next outing at home," Cobb said before Sunday's matinee against the Blue Jays at Tropicana Field.

"I got through it, but it was definitely more of a mental challenge than anything just trying to get creative. I felt like they could kind of sense what was coming in my repertoire of pitches and I had to just think outside the box a little bit -- go outside of what I usually do."

There are obvious differences between a mid-September affair and battling through the pageantry of a home opener in the Bronx. But the Yankees losing slugging catcher Gary Sanchez to the disabled list with a right biceps strain could make Cobb's task a bit easier.

That doesn't mean he will take it lightly, though. Keeping the Yankees guessing will be important, but prolonging the Rays' successful start to 2017 and building on his early momentum means more.

"Overall, I like the vibe that we have going in the clubhouse -- the intensity," Cobb said.

"It's a lot different feel than we had last year. … We have full confidence. So whenever you get to go on the road, especially in your first road trip, you get to set that tone to begin a series, you relish the opportunity to take the ball and it kind of starts with you."

Jeff Odom is a contributor to MLB.com based in St. Petersburg. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.