ST. PETERSBURG -- When right-hander Alex Cobb got sent down during Spring Training, he knew he would be first up if a need arose.
That need came this week, when Jeff Niemann went on the disabled list. The Rays recalled Cobb from Triple-A Durham after Friday's 5-3 loss to the Braves to start Saturday's game against Atlanta. Pitcher Josh Lueke was optioned to Durham to make room for Cobb.
"It's still hard, but at least I got to leave a good taste in their mouth this time, instead of a bad one," Lueke said. "I'm starting to get a better feel. Hopefully, I can just get out there and do the exact same thing."
Cobb went 3-2 with a 3.42 ERA over nine starts with the Rays last season, and was 1-4 with a 4.14 ERA at Durham this year.
"When I got sent down, [manager] Joe [Maddon] told me I would be a big part of the season this year, as soon as somebody went down or something happened," Cobb said. "Unfortunately, Niemann got hurt. You never want to be called up because of something due to injury. It makes me realize that they do have trust in me and that they believe that I can fill the spot OK."
Cobb is coming off his best start of the season, in which he allowed no runs over five innings while matching his season high for strikeouts with eight.
"I think all my velocity's back," said Cobb, whose 2011 season got cut short due to season-ending surgery to remove a blood clot and blockage in the area of his first right rib. "I have a good feel for my offspeed pitches. I did have one bad start and another start I was sick, so I don't really look too much into that one. I had to come out in the second. Other than those two starts, I've been feeling pretty good."
Niemann is on the disabled list with a small fracture of his right fibula, after taking a ball in the leg from Toronto's Adam Lind earlier this week.
Cobb, 24, logged 52 2/3 innings for the Rays last season, striking out 37 and walking 21.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.