DETROIT — With the way he pitched last summer after he returned from his concussion, it was hard to believe that RHP Alex Cobb had missed 50 games, and that, Cobb said, might be one of the reasons he has struggled this summer after missing 35 games with a strained left oblique.
“Maybe I took it a little bit for granted that the mechanics were just going to show up,” Cobb said. “I don’t know if that was the case, but something to look into.”
Could be, because Cobb hasn’t looked like his usual self since returning from the DL. He said he thought he took some strides forward Sunday in Baltimore despite pitching five innings. Still, Cobb, who starts tonight against the Tigers, finds himself working on his mechanics between starts, and he thinks he might have hit a wall.
“That’s been the frustrating thing,” he said. “When I feel like I fixed something, it’s something else, and then it’s something else and something else. It leads back to staying over the rubber, staying in control entirely throughout the entire delivery and realizing you don’t have to make things happen down at that end. You have to take care of what’s going on over the rubber and the pitch will take care of itself down by the plate.”
When asked if he was surprised it’s taking so long for Cobb to right himself, manager Joe Maddon said, “Yes and no. No, because his stuff’s really good. He’s not hurting. He’s physically good. Yes, because of his delivery, and he’s been very internal with his mechanics and really thinking a lot about his mechanics. I would like to see him be a little external and not worry about that stuff so much, but physically, his stuff is as good as it’s ever been.”
Cobb said his fastball is improving, but he still needs to get better at throwing it inside to lefties so he can get them to chase his other pitches.
“I think what’s been going on this stretch is that I felt good, felt bad, felt good, felt bad,” he said. “I need to get a consistency going and figure out how to make that possible. Something I really haven’t dealt with is the inconsistency, so this is something I need to get back too.”
LHP Cesar Ramos pitched 31⁄3 innings Friday, which means he likely made his last appearance before his wife, Melanie, gives birth to their first child.
Ramos said Wednesday that he planned to return to Tampa Bay after Saturday’s game. After his workload Thursday, Ramos wouldn’t be available until at least Saturday.
Ramos can miss as many as three days on paternity leave.
“We’ll be prepared to back it up based on the rules whenever he has to take off and go,” Maddon said. “I know that she’s about ready, and I’m sure he is, too. We’ll just play it out, but it should be any moment now.”
RHP Jeremy Hellickson (right elbow surgery) returned to the mound Friday in a rehab assignment with Triple-A Durham after having his last outing cut short because of soreness.
Hellickson, who threw without pain during his side work after that last start, pitched 52⁄3 innings for the Bulls. He allowed seven hits, two runs, walked two and struck out four. He threw 86 pitches, 55 for strikes.
That was Hellickson’s last start on his rehab assignment. He can rejoin the rotation or be optioned to Durham if the Rays think he needs more time.
ABOUT THAT LINEUP
The Rays recalled Vince Belnome on Thursday because they wanted another left-handed hitter in the lineup against tigers RHP Max Scherzer. Maddon used Belnome as the DH and slotted him between fellow left-handers 1B James Loney and RF Kevin Kiermaier, to give himself flexibility to pinch-hit and to make it more difficult for the lefties in the Tigers bullpen.
Using the numbers associated with their positions, that made the first seven batters in the Rays lineup 8-6-7-5-3-0-9, which was the name of Tommy Tutone’s 1981 hit, “867-5309/Jenny.”
Maddon said he wasn’t aware of the sequence, but was glad it happened.
“Yes, I was,” Maddon said. “I was actually very, very pleased. Great song. I actually found out there is also a Christmas version and an acoustical version, which I downloaded all three.”