ST. PETERSBURG - Manager Joe Maddon held a closed-door meeting Thursday with his players, minus his two All-Stars and a handful of others who traveled to Toronto separately, to keep their minds in sync with how the team has been playing the past three weeks.
The Rays, winners of 17 of their past 21 games, begin the second half of the season with the fifth-best record in the majors.
"Had a nice, brief meeting with them to talk about the second half, what our goals are and how to reach those goals. That was good," Maddon said before Thursday's workout at Tropicana Field.
Maddon didn't go into detail but said the meeting was about perspective.
"Primarily about how we got to this particular moment and how proud I am of how they finished up (the first half), and also regarding all the different things that were said about winning at the end of the break, I said it had nothing to do with the schedule," said Maddon, referring to the last three series against the Astros, Twins and White Sox. "It had everything to do with how we played the game."
During the last homestand against those teams, Rays pitchers struck out 88 batters and walked 10.
"I want them to understand that when we play that game, it doesn't matter what it says on the front of the uniform, we'll be just fine," Maddon said.
The Rays took hold of second place in the AL East during their run, but Maddon said the team can perform better.
"Right now is when you really have to turn into something more special than that in order to get to that level you're seeking," he said.
The Rays' short workout Thursday was confined to the infield. The Tampa Bay Home Show at the Trop today through Sunday took up the outfield area.
Maddon said he didn't want to miss an entire day of some type of practice, because the team wouldn't have time in Toronto.
Cobb on his way back
RHP Alex Cobb (concussion) said he will make his first minor-league rehab start Tuesday in Port Charlotte for the Single-A Charlotte Stone Crabs.
Cobb threw 59 pitches Thursday during a four-inning simulated game at the Rays' spring training complex in Port Charlotte.
"It went well," Cobb said. "It was nice to get out there and see competition again."
Cobb had fielders behind him, and runners were placed in scoring position so he could pitch out of jams. Some batters bunted to give Cobb the opportunity to field his position.
"It made me focus," Cobb said. "And the thing that I was happy about was I was able to focus in and make some adjustments."
Price feeling extra rested
David Price spent 47 days on the disabled list following a triceps strain suffered May 15 against Boston. Since his return, Price has made three starts, including two complete games. He went 2-1 in that stretch, with a 1.08 ERA, 18 strikeouts, three runs and 19 hits allowed and no walks in 25 innings. He has faced 87 batters and had one three-ball count.
Following the All-Star break, Price said his body is more rested than usual.
"It's probably 40 or 50 innings I've missed out on my body and arm this year, so I'd have to think I feel a little fresher."
The reigning AL Cy Young winner, who won 20 games last season, has appeared in 12 games this season. He is 3-5 with a 3.94 ERA in 80 innings.
Price said his approach post-injury has changed.
"Pounding the strike zone," he said. "You can't have guys come up there and take the first couple of pitches hoping they'll be 2-0 (in the count) or worst-case 1-1. I feel like right now if guys go up there now with that mentality, it's going to be 0-2 pretty quick."
Praise for Moore
Maddon and Price were proud of Matt Moore's performance in Tuesday's All-Star game. Moore pitched a perfect inning to help the AL win 3-0.
"To have him go out there and look as comfortable and as confident as he did, especially with that being the first one and being on one of the biggest stages in baseball in New York City, he did a tremendous job," Price said.
Said Maddon, "I look at moments like that for young players and how it can benefit him in the future. That's another check mark on the list of things to do, of tremendous things to do. I think when he comes back here to play, there's going to be a little more calmness about him and a little more confidence about him. It just benefits him and us."
The Rays will place 1B James Loney on the paternity list today and recall INF Ryan Roberts from Triple-A Durham. The team does not know when Loney will return. ... The trip to Toronto will be the first trip out of the country for OF Wil Myers. . After being sidelined for more than two months with a right lat strain, RHP Brandon Gomes pitched a scoreless inning for the rookie-level GCL Rays. ... SS Yunel Escobar (strained right hamstring) took infield practice Thursday.