Rookie right-hander Yordano Ventura will try to even his record in his first start under the dome at Tropicana Field on Wednesday night as the Royals wrap up a three-game series against the Rays.
Chances are the Kansas City starter will get a decision one way or the other in the rubber match. Only three of his 16 starts have yielded a no-decision. He's won four of his last six with a 2.52 ERA in that span.
Ventura, just past his 23rd birthday, is learning in a hurry. While he's capable of reaching 102 miles per hour with his fastball, he's varying speeds and mixing pitches.
"I'm concentrating more and throwing strikes," he said. "Every hitter is looking for a fastball, so I throw a changeup or a curveball, some other pitch."
He'll attempt to top a Rays team that has been hot as of late. Trailing in the American League East standings by as many as 15 games, Tampa Bay has turned it around by going 18-8 since June 11.
Alex Cobb will try to help secure a series victory when he makes his 13th start.
In his last outing, Cobb pitched five innings and allowed five hits and three earned runs in a win over Detroit on the Fourth of July.
He's worked five innings in each of his last three starts, and hasn't gone more than seven in any outing this season.
"The key to it is making them put the ball into play early, try to get each guy out in three pitches or less," Cobb said. "Just getting into that groove where you're not thinking about anything pitch count-wise, you're just attacking hitters. That's what the most frustrating part of last game was. That I did feel like I could have gone six, seven, eight innings."
Royals: All-Star Perez always a star
When right-hander James Shields spoke about his triumphant return to The Trop on Monday night, he was careful to credit catcher Salvador Perez for his seven shutout innings and 10 strikeouts.
"Just his overall game is one of the best in the game," Shields said. "You saw when we struck out [Matt] Joyce there and he threw [Ben] Zobrist out [trying to steal] from his knees. He does a lot of special things on the field.
"Offensively, he's a tremendous hitter. He's probably got the most enthusiasm of any catcher I've ever seen out behind the plate, which makes me feel good as a pitcher. His whole game is definitely top-notch and I'm glad he's on my team."
Perez will be the AL's starting catcher for Tuesday's All-Star Game at Target Field.
Rays: Ramos back from paternity leave
Reliever Cesar Ramos made his return to the clubhouse on Tuesday following the birth of his first child, Addison Lynn Ramos.
"It's awesome," Ramos said. "You always look forward to that day, and now it's here, and it's kind of hard to explain the emotions I went through. But I'm just happy. Good delivery and healthy baby, and all is well."
Ramos' daughter was born on Saturday and the lefty was reinstated from paternity leave on Monday, but he was not present for the series opener against the Royals.
Ramos said that he didn't get much sleep at the hospital. All he had was a fold-out chair, but he got a couple of solid three- to four-hour stretches in at home.
"I guess that's pretty good, from what I've heard from other stories," Ramos said. "Anything that gets past two hours, I'll take."
Ramos' fellow reliever, Jake McGee, is also expecting his first child. McGee's wife is set to have induced labor on Wednesday, so that the baby can be delivered on Thursday's off-day.
• The Royals had two Minor League award winners last week. Class A Advanced Wilmington right-hander Glenn Sparkman was the Carolina League Pitcher of the Week and Idaho Falls first baseman Ryan O'Hearn was the Pioneer League Player of the Week.
• Shields and the Royals shut out Tampa Bay, 6-0, on Monday, the 12th time the Rays have been blanked this season.
• Rays shortstop Yunel Escobar played in a rehab game on Tuesday with Class A Advanced Charlotte. Escobar, who is on the 15-day disabled list with a sore right shoulder, is slated to play again on Wednesday. He could return for Friday's series opener against the Blue Jays.
Jamie Ross is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.