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Tampa Bay Rays rookie pitcher Alex Cobb to have season-ending surgery to remove 'blockage'

ST. PETERSBURG — Promising rookie RHP Alex Cobb will have season-ending surgery Friday to remove a blockage near his top right rib, but the Rays expect him to be ready for the start of spring training.

Cobb, 23, made an impressive rise to the majors this season, going 3-2, 3.42 in nine starts. But he had some numbness in his hand and a dead-arm feeling throughout his arm before and during his last start Saturday, and though initial tests for a blood clot were negative, subsequent tests showed a blockage in the subclavian vein, similar to a kink in a hose.

Cobb's surgery — a thoracic outlet decompression — will be performed at the Baylor University Medical Center by Dr. Gregory Pearl, a Dallas vascular surgeon who has done similar procedures, which could include removing a rib, on other players, such as LHP Kenny Rogers.

Cobb, in a statement released by the Rays, said he was already looking ahead: "I'm relieved to know what it is and that it isn't career threatening in any sort of way. It's also good to know that I am in the hands of a specialist who has been down this road before and can treat it properly. I'm ready to get this part over and get on with (head athletic trainer Ron Porterfield's) rehab program."

The Rays say the recovery time is 10-12 weeks, and that Cobb will be able to participate in a regular offseason throwing program and should be ready for spring training.

"It's a tough one,'' manager Joe Maddon said. "But from I understand it's not going to be a long-term serious kind of thing and he's going to be fine.''

With Cobb out, the Rays plan to stick with their current five starters for now, but with a plan to limit the innings thrown by rookie RHP Jeremy Hellickson they could need another.

SHORTSTOP SHUFFLE: Left knee bursitis that sent OF Justin Ruggiano to the disabled list led to a shortstop shuffle across four levels of the organization, topped by Reid Brignac's return to the big leagues.

Tim Beckham, the top pick in the 2008 draft, was promoted from Double-A Montgomery to Triple-A Durham, and Hak-Ju Lee, acquired in the Matt Garza trade, from Class A Charlotte to Montgomery.

Maddon made it clear Brignac needed more work at Triple A to improve his offense, and as a result he will play only "occasionally" with Sean Rodriguez remaining the primary starter.

Brignac, who hit .193 before being sent down July 23, wasn't much better at Durham, with a .231 average in 11 games, though with a .348 on-base percentage.

"Reid had not graduated yet, we have lot of work to do with him and we're going to continue to do so," Maddon said. "Overall there's been some improvement but not to the level that we're really comfortable with yet."

Brignac said he felt he did the things — such as taking walks, bunting, moving runners — he was supposed to and was glad to be back. "It could have been quicker for me," he said.

Maddon said Ruggiano, who has played sparingly, has been bothered for a while.

Beckham hit .275 with seven homers and 57 RBIs in his first season at Double A. Lee hit .317 with four homers, 22 RBIs and 28 steals for the Stone Crabs.

NO JAKING: LHP Jake McGee got his first win but allowed a homer for his third straight game. "We've got to stop doing that,'' Maddon said. "The process and the thinking was not very good right there.''

MISCELLANY: RHP Jeff Niemann plans to get up between 6-7 a.m. to prepare for today's 12:10 start. … Today's game is not on TV. … The Rays team beat the Pirates 7-2 to win the Venezuelan Summer League championship.

Tampa Bay Rays rookie pitcher Alex Cobb to have season-ending surgery to remove 'blockage' 08/10/11 [Last modified: Thursday, August 11, 2011 1:59am]

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