Rays' rotation showing positive signs

Souza out of lineup Thursday; De Leon to make Minors start

Rays' rotation showing positive signs

ST. PETERSBURG -- Alex Cobb is positive better days are ahead for the Rays.

Specifically: days like Wednesday's 12-1 rout of the Royals, which snapped a three-game losing skid. It was only the seventh time this season that Tampa Bay won without needing to come from behind to do so.

Though the Rays entered Thursday's series finale with Kansas City holding an 11-13 record in their last 24 games -- despite holding a lead in 23 of them -- the right-hander chalked the struggles up to the length of a season.

"It shouldn't catch anybody off-guard," said Cobb, who will open Tampa Bay's three-game set with the Red Sox on Friday night at Fenway Park.

"Anybody that's been through a big league season knows that you're going to go through stretches like this. And when you do go through stretches like this, it's panic button everywhere and it can't be a panic button in the clubhouse."

One potential bright spot is that the rotation -- inconsistent at times through the first month-plus, even with a Majors-best 3.23 ERA -- has shown signs of coming around.

Chris Archer worked eight strong innings on Wednesday, marking the second time in four games a Rays starter has done so. Before Cobb did it against the Blue Jays on Sunday, Tampa Bay had gone 98 consecutive games without one.

Archer hurls eight scoreless

Cobb said the team does its best to tune out any negativity to keep things in perspective. How they manage the ups and downs now, he believes, will determine how they fare when the season hits crunch time.

"We're gonna go through difficulties, and then we're gonna have a huge amount of success and then we're gonna go through struggles again," Cobb said. "It's about showing up every day with an even-keel mindset. It's a long season, but it goes by real quick. You can't get in the trap of caving in.

"You just have to keep pushing every day, no matter if you're doing well or struggling."

Worth noting

• Outfielder Steven Souza Jr., held out of the lineup Thursday for the third straight game with a right thumb contusion, received a cortisone injection on Wednesday. He hopes to return during the upcoming series in Boston.

• Right-hander Tommy Hunter, out since April 23 with a right calf strain, will travel on the upcoming six-game road trip and plans to begin throwing bullpen sessions. Hunter has not pitched since sustaining the injury when he awkwardly stepped off the mound while running to cover first base on a grounder against the Astros.

Jose De Leon, Tampa Bay's No. 3 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, will make his first Minor League rehab start on Thursday night for Class-A Charlotte. The right-hander hasn't pitched since Spring Training, sidelined with mass flexor discomfort.

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