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Rays pitching staff finally back together

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Published:   |   Updated: September 6, 2013 at 12:28 AM

ANAHEIM, Calif. — They were all in David Price’s hotel room Monday night, playing NHL ’13 video hockey when it occurred to them the band was about to get back together.

The core four of the Rays’ rotation coming out of spring training — Alex Cobb, Matt Moore, Jeremy Hellickson and Price — would all be active at the same time for the first time since Price went on the disabled list in mid-May.

“We all said, ‘Finally, we’re going to be back together again and things would be the way they should be,’ ” Cobb said. “We’ve become close over the last three years, and I think we really feed off each other’s energy, like we saw last year. Everybody is trying to outdo the last starter’s performance, and it was a friendly competition. I think we’re going to be able to start having that competition going again, and that together with the September run we’re about to go on, it should definitely bring out the best in all of our performances.”

Add rookie Chris Archer, who was called up to fill Price’s spot in the rotation and solidified himself as a full-time member of the rotation, and you have cause for optimism in the Rays clubhouse.

“It makes you whole,” manager Joe Maddon said after Hellickson’s outing in Wednesday’s 3-1 victory against the Angels at Angel Stadium.

Moore returned from the disabled list Tuesday after missing five weeks with a sore left elbow and allowed an unearned run in 5ß innings during the Rays’ 7-1 victory that snapped a five-game losing streak.

Hellickson, who missed eight games when taken off the roster to give his mind and body a break, pitched 5ß innings of scoreless ball.

While his curveball and change-up have been sharper this season, Maddon said he saw signs from Hellickson that the rest paid off, even if it meant the right-hander missed only one start.

“I thought he was really under control and felt pretty good about himself out there. I was looking for that,” Maddon said. “I didn’t see any wear, because he had not been out there in a while. I thought his mound presence was intact.”

Hellickson wasn’t pleased about being removed from the roster, but he understood why the move was made. He was 0-5 with a 9.00 ERA in his six starts before the move. He bounced back Wednesday with his first win since July 26.

“I did feel rested,” Hellickson said.

Maddon said that was evident in Hellickson’s fastball, which touched 93 mph on occasion. Hellickson noticed he has a livelier fastball, but he said that was about the only difference he noticed from his previous outings.

“Felt good to get back out there. Felt good to get another win,” Hellickson said. “Hopefully we’ll get on another roll this next week or so.”

Having the gang healthy the entire season could have meant what?

“I think it reflects on our record a little bit,” Maddon said. “We probably would have had at least two or three more wins by now if the boys had all been together and throwing like they could from the beginning, but it happens to everybody.”

rmooney@tampatrib.com

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