Tuesday, February 20, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

A day in the rehab life of Rays RHP Alex Cobb

DAYTONA BEACH — Alex Cobb and his fiancee, Kelly Reynolds, made a weekend out of Cobb's second rehab start Monday with the Class A Charlotte Stone Crabs against the Daytona Tortugas.

They arrived Thursday at the Hilton Daytona Beach Resort so Cobb could throw his between-starts bullpen session Friday at Jackie Robinson Ballpark and work out with the Stone Crabs prior to the weekend games.

On Sunday, the couple saw the movie Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates. While walking out of the theater, Reynolds caught Cobb throwing an imaginary baseball to an imaginary batter.

"He does it all the time," Reynolds said. "He doesn't even know he's doing it. We'll be walking to the car and he does it. He's in his own world."

To snap Cobb back to reality Reynolds yelled, "Strike!"

A picky eater

Four hours before Monday's first pitch Alex Cobb ordered a Slim #4 Turkey Breast sandwich at a Jimmy John's, located a few blocks from the stadium.

He removed the top piece of the French bread and quickly devoured the first of his two pregame meals. The second was the peanut butter and jelly sandwich he always eats before leaving the locker room to begin his pregame warmup.

"I try to eat as light as possible before I pitch," he said. "I've been on the mound (after eating too much) and feel like I have a brick in my stomach."

Dude, change your shirt

Once inside the visiting clubhouse, Cobb slipped into the same black T-shirt with the gold MLB Player's Association's 50th logo on the front that he's worn since the start of spring training.

"It's my rehab shirt," Cobb said. "When I'm done rehabbing I'm burning it."

Cobb said he has worn that shirt every day this year during his rehab sessions at Tropicana Field and before his two starts with the Stone Crabs. He will wear it until the day he rejoins the Rays' rotation.

"There's no way you can write how bad it stinks," he said.

A return to humble

The visiting clubhouse at the Jack is tiny by big-league standards. Lockers line three of the four walls. The coaches/manager's office is tucked in the back.

The training room serves as the laundry room. The ice machine doubles as the air conditioner with the lid open and a fan lying across the top of the ice in a vain attempt to make the building less uncomfortable.

Cobb enjoyed his visit to Daytona in 2009, his lone season with the Stone Crabs. The team stayed at a nice hotel on Daytona Beach. The crowds for the games were large and energetic.

"It was a good destination," Cobb said. "That's why when I saw that I was rehabbing here I wasn't like, 'Oh no, I've got to go to Daytona.' "

Then Cobb, leaning against the wall next to the front door, nodded over his shoulder at the hot and cramped quarters and added, "For some reason, I blocked all this out."

Big Man in town

The first step of a minor-league rehab assignment for a Ray usually means games with the Stone Crabs.

"I think it's awesome," Crabs manager Michael Johns said. "We're all human. We all want to be in the big leagues. When a guy comes down here you feel like you're a little closer to it."

Their presence is a welcome diversion to a long, hot summer in the Florida State League. Hey, they buy the postgame spread and pick up the clubhouse dues for the entire team, too.

"You get a new face in here. You're pulling for them. They're pulling for you," Johns said. "It's cool. It really is."

Move over, kid

Benton Moss, a right-hander selected in the sixth round in 2015, was supposed to make his 15th start of the season Monday against Daytona. Instead, Moss pitched in relief, just as he did the night Cobb made his first rehab start for the Stone Crabs.

"The goal is to get our big leaguers healthy," Johns said. "Ben Moss understands that"

Two hours before Monday's first pitch, Moss sat in front of his locker, scrolling through text messages on his iPhone while rolling a baseball in his right hand.

"I don't look at it any different," he said. "You're just coming out of the bullpen. Nothing really changes."

When told July 6 that he would follow Cobb that night, Moss told pitching coach Steve Watson, "Well, I'll just go out there and get a seven-inning save."

Moss pitched 5⅓ innings that night.

"A pretty good outing," he said.

Hanging with Mr. Cobb

Nick Sawyer, a right-handed reliever for the Crabs, had the locker next to Cobb's during the series in Daytona. The talk Monday was about the news of the day: Hank Conger had been optioned to Triple-A Durham.

Cobb talked with catcher Armando Araiza about, of all things, hitting home runs.

"We talk about anything," Sawyer said. "We talked about trucks yesterday."

Sawyer said he wanted to see how Cobb attacked a Class A lineup. Moss said he wanted to see how Cobb prepared for his start, especially how Cobb warmed up in the bullpen.

Any tips the young players could glean could be valuable. Who knows?

"It makes me want to come here every day and talk to him a little more," Sawyer said. "Learn. That's that this game is about. It's a game of failure. You want to learn how to fail less. It's nice to be this close and get to talk to someone who's been there."

Game time

Cobb was scheduled to pitch three innings but called it a night after throwing 27 pitches in the first inning.

He was fatigued from the heat and humidity and the high number of pitches.

After checking in by phone with Rays head athletic trainer Ron Porterfield, Cobb walked out of the clubhouse and said good-bye to dad Rick, who made the trip north from Vero Beach. Cobb signed autographs for the dozen of fans who hung around the tiny building since the gate opened two hours earlier.

First in line was Andy Burgess, 32, of Daytona. A Rays fan from the franchise's first days, Burgess wore a blue Dan Johnson jersey that he bought for $75 at Fanfest. "A heck of a deal," he said.

Burgess remembered watching Cobb pitch at the Jack back in 2009.

"Thanks, Alex," Burgess said as Cobb signed his baseball. "Good luck. We need you back in Tampa Bay."

Cobb smiled, nodded.

He's trying.

     
                             
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