ST. PETERSBURG — RHP Alex Cobb could rejoin the Rays rotation by the end of the month, manager Joe Maddon said Tuesday.
Maddon was encouraged after watching what he labeled an "electric" bullpen session by Cobb, who has been sidelined since April 13 with a left oblique strain. Cobb was thought to be targeted for an early June return, but if there are no setbacks, it may be earlier.
"He's not far off," Maddon said.
Cobb agreed, saying he felt great in going as "full force as I could" in a 35-pitch session. He will throw the first of three live batting practice sessions in a couple of days, Maddon said.
Cobb said a key aspect will be building arm strength, which takes time.
"I think the end of this month is an extremely realistic goal," Cobb said. "I think that's been the goal this whole time, just put a little cushion on it just in case we had a minor setback here or there. But it's been real smooth sailing with the rehab process so far. I don't want to jinx anything, but I think we're doing really well right now."
WAIT BEGINS: LHP Matt Moore was back in the Rays clubhouse Tuesday, wearing a brace on his left arm and sounding upbeat after his April 22 Tommy John surgery. Moore said it'll be 4-5 months before he can start throwing and acknowledged that it's tough mentally, especially fighting off the boredom. But Moore believes he can come back stronger, much like many pitchers who have had the procedure.
STEPPING IN: RHP Brad Boxberger was recalled from Triple-A Durham for his third stint with the Rays and was used immediately, pitching 12/3 scoreless innings in relief of RHP Chris Archer. He admitted it has been a "whirlwind" first month, but he was happy to find out Sunday he'd be back. "I'm just racking up some frequent flier miles," Boxberger joked. "But hopefully this is the end of it."
Maddon wouldn't say for sure how long Boxberger will stay up. "All I know is he's very capable of being here," he said. "I won't hesitate to use him in any situation, have a lot of faith in him."
GOING DEEP: LHP Cesar Ramos said he learned a lot from his last start Thursday in Boston, when he allowed one run in 42/3 innings and struck six but also walked six. "I feel like it's the AL East, you've just got to be more around the plate or in the strike zone than on the corners," he said.
But Ramos was pleased to get his pitch count up to a career-high 95. "Hopefully this time out, I'll get into the sixth or seventh," he said.
MORE MEDICAL: RHP Jeremy Hellickson (elbow surgery) felt good Tuesday after throwing from 100 feet, saying he'll throw a fourth — and potentially final — bullpen session today before taking the next step in his rehab. Hellickson, who has experienced soreness only when throwing curveballs, may not return until late June, though he says he's just taking it one day at a time.
"Just kind of being smart about it," he said. "There's a little urgency to get back, but at the same time, you've got to let it respond how it's going to respond and go from there."
MISCELLANY: Ben Zobrist, who entered Tuesday in a 1-for-22 skid, was back in the lineup and in the leadoff spot after getting Sunday off as a breather. He went 1-for-3 with a walk and a sacrifice fly. … Maddon used a challenge in the ninth inning on C Ryan Hanigan getting thrown out at first, but after a 47-second review the call was confirmed. … Cobb and INF Logan Forsythe will visit All Children's Hospital this morning.