ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) – Tampa Bay Rays right-hander Alex Cobb favors pitchers having the option of wearing protective headgear on the mound.
Cobb returned to Tropicana Field on Monday, nine days after being struck in the right ear by a ball hit by Kansas City’s Eric Hosmer and nearly seven weeks after Toronto’s J.A. Happ also was hit in the head by a batted ball while pitching there.
Sitting on a platform in the auxiliary clubhouse in which Happ also answered questions about the scary incident that knocked him out of a game in early May, Cobb - who is making progress in his recovery, spoke to the media for the first time since being carted off the field and taken to a hospital on June 15.
Cobb, like Happ, was released from Bayfront Medical Center less than 24 hours later.
”I remember deciding what pitch to throw. … I remember seeing the ball come back,” said Cobb, who is out indefinitely with a concussion. ”Might have caught a glance of the ball and subconsciously turned my head, thankfully.”
The injury renewed debate about what can be done to protect pitchers from batted balls.
”Even after J.A. Happ went through this, we were asked pretty heavily about this topic. I came right out and thought there should be something for us to have the option to do,” Cobb said.
”I don’t want it to turn into something where every pitcher on the mound has to wear something. That’s everybody’s personal choice,” Cobb added. ”It’s one where you want to have a little say-so that if this incident happened again you were able to do everything you could to protect yourself, your future, your family.”
Cobb, who remained conscious the whole time, said he has experienced nausea, severe headaches that have begun to subside, as well as symptoms of vertigo.
Still, he is beginning to feel better each day.
”I’m having my days,” the 25-year-old Cobb said. ”Today has been the best day by far.”
Cobb said he visited the doctor Monday and was told he is healing quicker than expected. There is still no timetable for him to return to the mound.
”That’s something you just have to let play out,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said before Tampa Bay opened a three-game series against the Blue Jays, who are still without Happ.
”I don’t like to apply finish lines to items that I really have no clue (about). I don’t think anybody does,” Maddon said. ”Even if you talk to doctors, I’m sure they’re not sure how long it’s going to take. … So just let it play out.
”He’ll let us know when he’s ready for that next moment, and we’ll take it from there.”
After initially being reluctant to watch a replay of the line drive, Cobb said he watched it later that night or the following morning.
He said he initially thought the injury wasn’t that serious, and wanted to get up and walk off the field. It wasn’t until after the ambulance ride to the hospital, where he later overheard a nurse talking about, ”how she couldn’t believe this is happening again within a month” that he began to think about Happ.
”When it happened I didn’t think it was too big of a deal. … It didn’t sink in for a while,” Cobb said. ”Once I got the CATSCAN going and they told me there was no bleeding inside the brain, from there I was kind of at ease with the whole situation.”
There has been speculation that Cobb, who is 6-2 with a 3.01 ERA in 13 starts this year, might not pitch again this season. He said that isn’t true.
”I’ll be ready to go as soon as my body tells me I’m 100 percent,” he said. ”But mentally, there’s no doubt in my mind I’ll be fine. It’s just another challenge.”
He conceded, though, that it is difficult to imagine what it will be like when he does finally get back on a mound and faces hitters.
”I don’t think that’s something you can say until you actually go through it,” Cobb said. ”I’d love to sit up here and tell you no, that once I get out there I’ll have the mindset that it happened once, it’s probably a pretty good chance it’s not going to happen to me again.
”But I’m not going to lie. I’ve had some nightmares about how bad it could have been. It’s obviously in the back of my mind, but I’d like to think I could pitch through it.”