MIN@TB: Molina snaps a throw to first to nab Hicks

ST. PETERSBURG -- The much-maligned Rays catching tandem of Jose Molina and Jose Lobaton has had a good week, highlighted by Molina's pickoff of Minnesota baserunner Aaron Hicks on Monday night.

That pickoff was the first by a Ray since Kelly Shoppach on April 19, 2011, against the White Sox. Molina also threw out threw out two would-be basestealers on Sunday.

Rays manager Joe Maddon has basically shrugged all season when asked about the low percentage of basestealers that have been thrown out this season. He noted that the recent improvement is easily explained.

"Primarily because pitchers are doing a better job of holding runners on," Maddon said. "If you want to have a catcher look good, you have to do a better job among the pitching staff. Whether it's a move to first, quicker times to the plate. ... That's the key reason you throw out runners.

"Catchers get really blown up sometimes -- now, there are catchers who are really slow and not accurate, but Ja-Mo is, and so is [Lobaton]. So if we give them a shot, we're going to throw the runners out."

Lobaton allowed that it can be frustrating to not have a fair chance to throw out the baserunner, but he quickly stuck up for the pitchers he works with.

"I don't want to put the pitcher in a bad situation," Lobaton said. "I know they can do better. Same thing with me when I don't block a ball, they're thinking, 'He can do better.' It's something we have to work on together. And try to throw those guys out. Those runs are important for the team and the pitchers. I know they understand that."

Cobb feels good after bullpen session

CWS@TB: Cobb on getting back to playing baseball

ST. PETERSBURG -- Alex Cobb threw 47 pitches during a bullpen session on Thursday.

"Everything went well," said Cobb, who is recovering from a concussion he suffered after getting hit on the right side of his head in a June 15 game against Kansas City. "[My] arm is getting stronger and stronger, I think. And I'm getting more game-ready with the arm."

Cobb will throw another bullpen session Sunday at Tropicana Field.

"It's still up in the air whether it will be another bullpen [session] or a live BP," Cobb said. "Don't know yet."

In addition to throwing, Cobb has taken some fielding practice, which included having line drives hit toward him while he stood behind a screen.

"That went well," Cobb said.

Cobb took another concussion test Wednesday and said he did well. Major League Baseball and the Players Association must sign off on the results of his tests before he can return.

"I definitely think early August is realistic," Cobb said when asked about when he might return. "Late July might be a little bit of a push, but might as well set the goals high. Hopefully, it will happen."

Maddon: Rays could be special this season

ST. PETERSBURG -- Now that the Rays are playing well, the inevitable comparisons have begun.

Specifically, does this year's team have a chance to be the best the Rays have put on the field? The question was posed to manager Joe Maddon.

"It's hard ... [in] 2008, it started to flip," Maddon said. "Regarding the team or the moment, I don't know, that was a good ballclub. Also, 2010 was an outstanding team.

"I just think that right now we're starting to play up to our capabilities, what we thought we had in the offseason, going into the offseason, going into the Spring Training. We lost too many games earlier this season where we pretty much had them in tow and gave them up. But now we're locking them down. And we'll see by the end of the season where they rank with the better teams here. But there's been some very special groups, and this one can be also."

Rays, Twins rack up K's in marathon affair

ST. PETERSBURG -- The combined 35 strikeouts in Wednesday night's Rays-Twins contest (19 by Rays pitchers, 16 by Twins) were the most ever in a Rays game and tied for the most in a Twins game.

The previous high in a Rays game was 33 on July 30, 2012, at Oakland (Rays 21, A's 12).

The 19 strikeouts marked the second-highest strikeout total in Rays history after the aforementioned A's game. It also tied for second-highest total by a Major League team this season -- the Mariners had 21 in 14 innings on April 17 against the Tigers.

Most impressive was the fact that Rays pitchers yielded just one walk (in contrast to eight by the Twins), marking the ninth time since 1916 that a team has struck out at least 19 batters with one walk or less. The last staff to do this was the Twins on Aug. 19, 2007, against the Rangers.