ST. PETERSBURG — After a 4-3 homestand, the Tampa Bay Rays appear eager to hit the road for a 10-day trek that will keep them out of Tropicana Field until the New York Yankees roll into town late next week.
Tampa Bay faces three-game series at Kansas City, Cincinnati and Baltimore before returning home April 17 for the first of four games against New York. Nineteen of the next 26 games will feature road matchups.
“It’s exciting to get back out on the road,’’ said RHP Alex Cobb, who failed to get a decision Sunday, despite throwing seven scoreless innings against Texas. “It’s been awhile since we’ve been on a plane trip together. Some guys kind of feel like the season doesn’t start until the first road trip.’’
Tampa Bay’s initial road journey since last fall has extra significance for RF Wil Myers and RHP Jake Odorizzi, both acquired after the 2012 season in a deal that sent P James Shields to the Royals.
“It’s pretty special, Wil and I going back there (Kauffman Stadium) together,’’ said Odorizzi, who beat the Rangers 8-1 Friday night. “It’s pretty cool, honestly, because it’s not that far removed from being traded. It’ll be cool to be on the other side of the dugout and it will be good to say my hellos and then get back to baseball.’’
Myers wasn’t recalled from the minors until June 18, but he earned AL Rookie of the Year honors in 2013.
“I’m excited to get back there and get a chance to see everybody again,’’ Myers said of Kansas City. “Still, I’ll treat it as just another game for me.’’
LHP Matt Moore, slated to pitch Monday’s road opener, is packed and motivated.
“I think we look forward to going on the road,’’ Moore said. “It’s like, ‘Who’s bringing the Xbox and who’s got the TVs?’ I think I’m throwing twice on this trip, and it’ll be good for us.’’
Pain in the neck
The Rangers shut down RHP Yu Darvish since the middle of training camp with a stiff neck, but he displayed his full repertoire of pitches in Sunday’s 3-0 victory against the Rays.
From a 93-mph fastball to a 79-mph change, Darvish was in command while pitching seven scoreless innings before Texas went ahead in the eighth on a two-run homer by SS Elvis Andrus, who went the entire 2010 season without a homer in 588 at-bats.
“Yu made the pitches when he had to,’’ said Texas manager Ron Washington. “He said he didn’t feel like he had any rust, and I think today he showed that he didn’t.’’
Darvish also made history by recording his 500th career strikeout in only 401 2/3 innings, breaking the 2001 record set by Kerry Wood of the Cubs, who needed 404 2/3 innings to reach the milestone.
“I’m not worried about what he’s doing on his side,’’ Cobb said of Sunday’s counterpart on the mound. “Unfortunately for us, Darvish was really on tonight.’’
Look on the bright side
Despite suffering two shutouts, the Rays departed the Bay area with a winning record. They scored 29 runs in their four victories and only two runs in their three setbacks.
“We got two out of three against Texas,’’ said Rays manager Joe Maddon. “You wanted three out of three once you get that opportunity, but we didn’t get it. Give Texas some credit, but I love the way our guys are playing baseball right now.’’
In their three losses, the Rays are 1-for-28 with runners in scoring position.
“I definitely feel like there are areas that we haven’t reached our potential in,’’ Cobb said. “But as a team, everything is looking really good. It’s exactly what we thought we had coming into spring training.’’