Sunday, July 22, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Cobb returns Friday for first Rays start since 2015 surgery

ST. PETERSBURG — Alex Cobb has done everything asked of him during the 15-plus months of recovery and rehab from Tommy John elbow surgery, but that ends tonight when he faces the Blue Jays in his eagerly awaited return.

While the narrative is for Cobb to take the Trop mound just happy to be there and pleased to get in as much work as possible over the final month to be better prepared for 2017, the right-hander knows himself well enough to admit that isn't totally realistic.

"My perspective is at 7:10 to go out and win the ball game," he said.

Obviously there has to be a balance, and Cobb understands that, even as much of a competitive cuss as he is, with a strong disdain for the "It's okay"/participation trophy mentality that seems increasingly common in the Rays' and other clubhouses.

Plus, pitching coach Jim Hickey and manager Kevin Cash will be watching closely, planning to limit Cobb to 80-90 pitches, making sure, in his first big-league start since Sept. 28, 2014 — 704 days — he doesn't try to do too much.

As if the rough results Cobb had during much of his eight-start rehab assignment (0-3, 6.65) weren't warning enough of the challenge, Cobb has the vivid recall of what buddy Matt Moore went through returning in July 2015 from the same surgery.

Moore failed so much initially he was sent back to the minors, then returned strong in September and regained form enough this year to be a playoff-push acquisition by the Giants.

"I think the view of Tommy John surgery among players in general, fans and media is you get the surgery, you rehab and you come back better and stronger," Cobb, 28, said. "You see the happy ending.

"Watching Matt, I saw the real struggle of the surgery and knew that was going to be a reality going into it. You always think it's going to be easier for you, you've got it figured out. But going through it, you realize what he was going through, and the struggle that he had to get back.

"So I know that struggle is real. But I also know you keep working on it and you can have the success he's having right now."

Moore said Thursday that Cobb's mental game will be as important as the velocity on fastball and break on his changeup.

"Especially with the rehab starts not going as well as you hope for, it's important to continue to believe and trust yourself," Moore said. "The more and more he gets out there, he will lose himself in the moment of competition, and it'll be easier to break away from the mechanical thoughts and settle in."

Cobb was hurt in spring training 2015 and had the surgery mid May, so he was confident he would be back at some point this season. But that didn't make the path free of pain, doubts or frustration.

"It wasn't like it was smooth," Cobb said. "Some people just pick up a ball and they're like, 'Okay, the pain's gone.' With me, it was like, this kind of hurts a little more than before I got the surgery."

Understandably, the first throws at each stage of his rehab were tentative, and though Cobb says the elbow is now fully healthy and of zero concern, there may be lingering effects limiting his success.

"I remember being scared at first, and that's something I've been kind of fighting," he said. "I formed a lot of guarded, protective bad habits."

The final rehab outing was his best, and Cobb, with a tendon from his right wrist now holding his right elbow together, is eager for the five-start test that begins tonight, with his fiancee, dad and other friends in the stands to witness.

The Rays know to "temper our expectations" based on Moore's experience, Cash said. "We look at this last month as solely for Alex to do as much as he can to feel good about himself going into the offseason, get his innings up and remain healthy.

Cobb appreciates that perspective, that it's just early prep to be fully ready for 2017 (his final season before free agency), but he admits it won't mean much if he gets roughed up tonight by Jose Bautista or the other Blue Jays sluggers.

"I'll be as mad as when I was healthy, trust me," Cobb said. "There will be no change in that aspect. I'll have a lot of people tell me, 'It's okay.' And I'll tell them to beat it."

Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected] Follow @ TBTimes_Rays.

 
Comments
Rays journal: New faces, same old loss

Rays journal: New faces, same old loss

ST. PETERSBURG — To get a sense of how things are going for the Rays right now, consider that opening day starter Chris Archer was wearing a promotional DJ Kitty head in the dugout and veteran OF Carlos Gomez was playing second base during Satu...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Kevin Kiermaier frustrated as injuries continue

Kevin Kiermaier frustrated as injuries continue

ST. PETERSBURG — This season has been quite a pain for Rays centerfielder and centerpiece Kevin Kiermaier.A cold bat, a nagging illness, a searing foul ball we'll come back to shortly and a torn thumb ligament that required surgery, all in the ...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Saturday’s Rays-Marlins game

Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Saturday’s Rays-Marlins game

Joey Wendle continues to impress, playing anywhere asked and hitting everywhere. Friday he joined the play-of-the-year race with an amazing glove flip to first. Saturday he was the first Ray with a decent swing off Pablo Lopez, homering in the fourth...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Rays Tales: Sure is a lot to talk about

Rays Tales: Sure is a lot to talk about

WASHINGTON — There was a lot of talk specific to the Rays at the All-Star Game last week, from commissioner Rob Manfred's strong endorsement of the Ybor stadium plan to Wilson Ramos' rousing ovation from the Washington fans to Blake Snell's imp...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Another bad look for Rays in 3-2 loss

Another bad look for Rays in 3-2 loss

ST. PETERSBURG – To get a sense of how shorthanded the Rays were by the final innings of Saturday night's game, all you had to do was look at the field and see Carlos Gomez playing second base.It was that kind of night for the Rays, who lost an...
Updated: 10 hours ago
For starters: Rays vs. Marlins, with Justin Williams called up

For starters: Rays vs. Marlins, with Justin Williams called up

UPDATE, 3:52: 3B Matt Duffy (back) is feeling better but Cash said they would stay away from using him except in an emergency. That's not that unlikely, however, as the Rays wull have a short bench, with only C Adam Moore and Williams, assuming he ge...
Published: 07/21/18
Rays journal: Replacement catcher Adam Moore ready to play

Rays journal: Replacement catcher Adam Moore ready to play

ST. PETERSBURG — The newest Rays player is also nearly the oldest.With All-Star C Wilson Ramos on the disabled list with a hamstring injury, Tampa Bay turned to veteran Adam Moore, 34, as the new backup catcher behind Jesus Sucre. Only reliever...
Published: 07/20/18
Updated: 07/21/18
Martin Fennelly: Rays and Marlins at different stages of same mission

Martin Fennelly: Rays and Marlins at different stages of same mission

ST. PETERSBURG — New York Yankees god and former Tampa resident Derek Jeter, who was once going to save the Rays (or so we thought), was at Tropicana Field on Friday night. The Captain had the gall to show up as Miami Marlins chief executive of...
Published: 07/20/18
Late rally falls short as Rays lose to Marlins, 6-5

Late rally falls short as Rays lose to Marlins, 6-5

ST. PETERSBURG –The Rays rallied for four runs in the bottom of the ninth Friday night, but their rally came up short as the Marlins held on for a 6-5 win at Tropicana Field.Tampa Bay's bullpen gave up five runs in the seventh, and that was too...
Published: 07/20/18
Kiermaier has ‘severe bone bruise’ in foot, dates back to April injury

Kiermaier has ‘severe bone bruise’ in foot, dates back to April injury

Rays outfielder Kevin Kiermaier left Friday's game in the fifth inning when an injury to his right foot that has bothered him since April flared up with the worst pain he's encountered this season.Kiermaier called the injury a "severe bone bruise" an...
Published: 07/20/18