ST. PETERSBURG -- At the season's outset, few Rays fans would have predicted last season's American League Cy Young Award winner would have three days off for the All-Star break.
Even fewer would have guessed that one of Tampa Bay's least experienced starters would be headed to New York City for the Midsummer Classic, but that's exactly the way it has shaken out, as David Price will miss the game for the first time since 2009, while Matt Moore will attend for the first time.
Price -- who started in Anaheim in 2010 and went to Arizona in 2011 and Kansas City in 2012 -- shared some advice with his locker neighbor before Moore took off for the Big Apple.
"The main thing is to have fun," Price said. "This is his first experience with something like this, and it can be heavy at times, but being on the East Coast will be better for him, because when you have it on the West Coast, you have to start everything so much earlier. I know he'll have time to sleep in and hang out with his family. That will be good for him."
Moore has carried the load for much of the first half, becoming the second pitcher to win 13 games before the break, while Price missed time with a left triceps strain.
"He's done extremely well," Price said of Moore. "He has definitely commanded his fastball better, and he's gone deeper into games. He knows he can still get much better.
"Last year, he was kind of looking all over the place. This year, he's 100 percent focused on every pitch, and that's why he's been able to put up the numbers he has been. That's why he's an All-Star."
Escobar unlikely to miss time after exiting game
ST. PETERSBURG -- Rays shortstop Yunel Escobar left Sunday's 5-0 win over the Astros in the eighth inning with a mild right hamstring strain.
Escobar beat shortstop Ronny Cedeno's throw to first base on an infield single, but he pulled up after he ran through the base and left the game shortly thereafter.
Manager Joe Maddon said he didn't feel the injury was serious.
"In a different moment, I could have left him out there to play but chose not to," Maddon said.
Escobar missed four games in late April with an injury to his hamstring on the same leg, but Maddon said he doesn't envision Escobar missing time after the All-Star break.
"I think he's fine," Maddon aid. "He could have continued to play if he really needed to. He should be fine by the fifth day."
Cobb feels no fear getting back on mound
ST. PETERSBURG -- Sunday was the first time Alex Cobb stood on the pitcher's mound at Tropicana Field since he suffered a concussion when he was hit in the head by a line drive off the bat of Kansas City's Eric Hosmer on June 15.
Fans were already filtering into the stadium while the entire starting rotation, manager Joe Maddon, executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman and senior baseball advisor Don Zimmer lined up along the back of the batting cage to see Cobb throw to live hitters for the first time.
"I wanted it to be game-like, and I think we accomplished that feat," Cobb said "There's no shyness of the ball coming back to me. I'm happy with that."
Cobb threw about 40 pitches without a screen in front of him, tossing to outfielder Sam Fuld and clubhouse manager Chris Westmoreland.
He showed no hesitation in delivering his first pitch to a batter since the one that resulted in him spending a night in the hospital.
"That happened on one pitch, and I've thrown millions of other pitches," Cobb said. "The subconscious remembers the good ones, not just the one bad one. It's not going to be in my thought process when I'm on the mound now or in the future. I'm fortunate in that."
Cobb was met with a cheer from the small crowd and chest bumps from his teammates as he crossed the chalk on his way back to the dugout.
"It's amazing how quickly you forget how to pitch, and once batters get in there, the intensity goes up a little bit," Cobb said. "Body parts start flying in different directions that you aren't used to, and it takes a little while to get settled down. Toward the end of my session right there, it got a lot better. I was happy with it."
No official date has been set for Cobb's return, but he plans to throw a similar session in Port Charlotte -- home of the Rays' Class A affiliate -- on Thursday. He had previously mentioned an early-August return as a realistic goal.
Cobb was 6-2 with a 3.01 ERA before the injury in his second full Major-League season.
Maddon, wife setting out on open road
ST. PETERSBURG -- Good luck tracking Rays manager Joe Maddon down during the All-Star break.
Maddon and his wife, Jaye, will hop in their 30-foot RV -- the same one Jaye drove from California to Florida during the offeseason -- and head to Florida's east coast after Sunday's game.
"The idea of hitting the open road today is kind of an exciting thought," Maddon said. "This is our first salvo into the RV world. And it's something that you can grow with a bit. You can grow both mentally and physically, regarding the size of your RV."
Maddon may want to take pointers from fellow American League manager Ron Gardenhire of Minnesota. Maddon called Gardenhire "a pro" when it comes to RV-ing and said "Gardy lit up" when they discussed the open road recently. Gardenhire cruises in a 40-foot diesel vehicle around the country during the offseason.
"Maybe down the road, we'll consider moving it along a little bit," Maddon said. "We don't have the diesel unit yet. From what I've gathered, the diesel unit is the way to go. But we'll wait on that."
And while he will be away from his home, he doesn't mistake driving for camping.
"It's not exactly roughing it. I have DirecTV and Sirius Radio," Maddon said. "We can watch the All-Star Game. You have a fridge and stove and that good stuff. There are two air conditioning units, so it's nice and cool in there. You have a generator, so you could park it anywhere and live."
Maddon also said he would consider bringing his English bulldog Winston along.
"That will be a game-time decision," he said with a smile."
Sam Strong is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.