ST. PETERSBURG -- Alex Cobb emerged from the Rays' dugout, threw his arms in the air and proclaimed, "I'm a free man."
The injured starter, who was struck on the right side of the head with a line drive on June 15, played catch for the first time on Friday with head athletic trainer Ron Porterfield.
Cobb said he still had a slight headache, but felt fine otherwise.
Rays manager Joe Maddon called the step in Cobb's progress "outstanding."
"It's great," Maddon said. "Anytime I walk by him, he tells me he's having a good day and that's good to hear. We'll just take our time with him and follow his lead. With guys that have been hurt like that, I don't like to consistently ask them how they're feeling. I avoid that."
Price returns to mound on Tuesday vs. Astros
ST. PETERSBURG -- David Price is on his way back to the Rays' rotation.
After being on the disabled list since May 16 with a strained left triceps, Price will make his return on Tuesday against the Astros at Minute Maid Park. Price pitched two rehab games for Class A Charlotte, and the results were good enough to convince the Rays that the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner is ready to rejoin the rotation.
"He's ready to go. We felt that pretty strongly. He feels very good," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "There was no reason to have him throw those 90 pitches in Port Charlotte, so we'll just have him do it for us. He was adamant that he felt great, the medical staff feels good about it, so let's do it with us."
Price was clearly excited about being back with the Rays on the road after spending more than a month going through his rehab at home. The left-hander will throw a bullpen session at Tropicana Field on Saturday afternoon, then slot into Tampa Bay's rotation after Matt Moore and before Roberto Hernandez, who will start Wednesday against the Astros on seven days' rest.
"It's going to be good to get out there and face Major League hitters in a Major League venue," Price said. "It's been quite a while, and I'm ready to get out there."
Price said he was looking forward to that part of his return -- getting to pitch again -- more than anything, but he's excited about being back with his teammates in the clubhouse and in the dugout. Price is scheduled to make three starts before the All-Star break: Tuesday in Houston, July 7 against the White Sox and July 12 at home against the Astros. He is also scheduled to start the first Friday after the All-Star break, facing the Blue Jays in Toronto on July 19.
While the long stay on the disabled list proved frustrating for the impatient Price, Maddon pointed out that it could serve as a nice break from what had been a disappointing start to his season. Price was 1-4 with a 5.24 ERA in nine games before leaving his May 15 start due to injury. The time off could help Price get back to his Cy Young form.
"That's not a bad thought. Just go out there and really almost start over again," Maddon said. "It's not like he had been throwing the ball badly. The results were just not there for him overall. But coming off this post-injury, just looking at the way he's been throwing the baseball, the numbers have been very good. It'll be exciting moving forward, but I think it's a great chance or opportunity for him to start over for the season."
Rays face rotation decision with Price's return
ST. PETERSBURG -- Rays fans received a piece of good news on Friday when the club announced that last season's American League Cy Young Award winner, David Price, will come off the disabled list to face the Astros in Houston on Tuesday.
As is always the case in baseball, one player's good fortune means disappointment for another, and Price's return will force one of the Rays' young starters out of the rotation.
The candidates are rookie Alex Colome -- who was 1-0 without allowing an earned run in 10 innings of work before Friday's start against the Tigers -- and Saturday's starter, Chris Archer, who has now made nine starts for Tampa Bay over the course of the last two seasons, compiling a 3-6 record and a 4.42 ERA.
Whomever the Rays choose to remain in the rotation will be lined up to start the team's final game in Houston on Thursday. Which one will it be? Don't ask manager Joe Maddon.
"Whatever we decide to do will be tough," Maddon said Friday. "I like what both of them have been doing. I honestly don't have a strong opinion right now. We just discussed that. Both have represented themselves well."
Maddon said the pitchers' body of work "has been pretty close to this point" and went on to explain that factors outside of performance alone could affect the decision.
When asked about the impending move before Friday's game, Archer said he isn't concerned about what might happen the next time his turn in the rotation comes up.
"It's really not something I think about, other than the fact that I'm happy that one of my favorite pitchers [Price] is going to come back and pitch in a few days," Archer said. "We only have the present moment."
• Right-hander Brandon Gomes, out with a right lat strain, was scheduled to pitch Thursday for Class A Charlotte, but the Stone Crabs' game was postponed due to rain. Maddon said Friday that he believed Gomes warmed up before the game was postponed, meaning he wasn't available to pitch in Charlotte's doubleheader on Friday.
Gomes had hoped to return to the Rays' bullpen by Monday, when Tampa Bay heads to Houston for a four-game series against the Astros.
• Evan Longoria and Chris Archer took part in the "Reading with the Rays -- Read Your Way to the Ballpark" program on Friday by reading to children. Longoria did so at the Jan Kaminis Platt Regional Library in Tampa, while Archer read with kids at Childs Park YMCA in St. Petersburg.
• Entering Friday night, Rays starters have worked at least six innings in seven of their last eight games after failing to do so in seven straight games prior.
• Since May 27, the Rays' bullpen has thrown 104 1/3 innings, second most in the Majors, while putting together a 2.42 ERA, which ranks third in the Majors during that stretch behind the Blue Jays and Twins.
Adam Berry is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. Sam Strong is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.