PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Ryan Hanigan is the new guy behind the plate, so he's been taking it all in as one of the team's catchers while getting familiar with the Rays' pitchers. So far, he's been impressed with the group.
"I don't know what I expected," Hanigan said. "You just try and get a feel for the guys and get a feel for where they're at. I think there's a lot of talent with these guys. I was impressed with the unity that these guys show in terms of the way these guys all work together as a pitching staff. They watch each other. At simulated games, they're all out there watching the other guys pitch.
"They're doing everything together and talking pitching all the time. So that's something that's been pretty impressive to see -- just how tight-knit the crew is, the staff is, and how these guys kind of feed off each other."
Hanigan arrived to camp familiar with what the pitchers had done in the past.
"They've had great numbers," Hanigan said. "I haven't been surprised by the talent level because of the numbers, I'm not going to lie. It's exciting to catch guys like that who have a high ceiling and a bright future, and they've already had a lot of success."
Hanigan called every good outing a "stepping stone," and he used the same description for the bad ones.
"I don't think these guys are going to dwell on anything like that this time of year," Hanigan said. "But things have been solid. Things have looked good -- pounding the zone, mixing things up, working on stuff here and there -- just really pretty much executing out of the gate so far."
Gomes earning raves with new delivery
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Brandon Gomes pitched 1 2/3 scoreless innings against the Blue Jays on Saturday, striking out two and maintaining a 0.00 ERA in four appearances this spring.
Joe Maddon could not help chirping about the work of the bullpen hopeful.
"How about Brandon Gomes? Nobody's even talking about this guy," the Rays' manager said. "But gosh, he can't throw the ball any better than he is right now. He cannot. He's made some adjustments in his delivery -- his command has gotten better, the sharpness on his pitches. Really fun to watch."
When asked about those adjustments, Gomes noted that the biggest change came with the addition of a slide step.
"I was throwing before [bullpen coach] Stan [Boroski], and [we] kind of simplified my delivery and essentially made it a slide step," Gomes said. "My mechanics have been much more repeatable since then. I haven't lost any of my stuff. If anything, it's been better, and I'm quicker to home. So [there are] a lot of factors, it's just better overall."
Gomes said Boroski has been staying after him for a while to try and get him to incorporate the slide step.
"He was like, 'Why not?'" Gomes said. "I thought about it a lot, and finally we pulled the trigger."
The right-hander has also added a cutter to his repertoire.
"I think developing a cutter has helped a lot in commanding both sides of the plate to lefties and righties," Gomes said.
Cobb uses day off to pitch simulated game
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- The Rays had their first off-day in 18 days on Monday, but Alex Cobb still went to work, pitching in a simulated game against Minor Leaguers at Charlotte Sports Park.
Cobb originally had been slated to head to Fort Myers, Fla., to pitch in a game against the Twins' Triple-A team, but Tampa Bay was apprehensive about the weather, so the club had him stay home and pitch in the simulated game.
To his credit, Rays ace David Price was on hand on his off-day to show Cobb support for two innings.
Cobb threw 86 pitches, got up and down between innings seven times, and he left the outing feeling good about what he accomplished.
"I was really concentrating on what I needed to accomplish in getting ready for the regular season, so it actually turned out to be a really good day," Cobb said. "I was able to feel some things mechanically that I was able to consistently repeat.
"The conditions weren't great. There was a lot of wind -- cross winds here and there. ... [But] all things considered, everything worked really well today."
Cobb said his next outing should be "seven or eight innings."
"I have to get to 105 pitches next outing," Cobb said. "And then I might scale it back a little after that. And then it's regular-season time."
Cobb's last two outings have been against Minor League competition, so he's looking forward to facing the Orioles in his next two starts, even though they are an American League East rival.
"It's going to be the Orioles both times out," Cobb said. "But I think I miss them early in the season, so it's not that big of a deal.
"I need to face some Major League teams in the next couple of outings. You can take what you want out of the Minor League starts, and it does prepare you to get your body going up and down seven times. But you need that competitiveness. The game within the game at the Major League level, where guys really have approaches and guys are playing chess out there ... you need that feeling, that mentality."
Juan Carlos Oviedo was on hand Monday as well and threw 10 minutes of live batting practice to Minor Leaguers. The Rays are hoping Oviedo can be ready for the start of the season despite his late arrival to camp due to visa issues.
Rays' enviable rotation fueled by competition
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Everybody knows David Price will be the Rays' No. 1 starter, but while educated guesses can be made about how the rotation will shake out, nothing has officially been said about the order.
One thing is for certain, according to Price: The group that follows him will be "pretty darn good, whoever they are."
"I know anybody in the league would take any of us," Price said. "We take pride in what we do. We work hard, we pull for each other. We have fun."
The competition for the fifth spot in the rotation has not yet been settled. Jake Odorizzi, Cesar Ramos and Erik Bedard are the remaining contenders for the spot, which is a pretty nice group to choose from. Price said having multiple solid contenders for a pitching slot is typical of how the Rays things.
"They've been able to kind of stockpile talent, stockpile pitchers," Price said. "We have a lot of guys coming up throughout the Minor Leagues who are waiting to take our jobs. It's a very good problem to have. It puts a little more emphasis on what we need to do, knowing that these guys coming up behind us are throwing the ball as well as they are. They're in the position they're in right now because of their work ethic."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.