Rehabbing Cobb nearing return to Rays

Right-hander has been out since undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2015

Rehabbing Cobb nearing return to Rays

ST. PETERSBURG -- Alex Cobb will pitch Saturday in Durham for the Triple-A Bulls in what will likely be his final start before returning to the Rays.

Saturday is the 30th and final day of Cobb's rehab assignment, and if all goes well, he's expected to rejoin the team.

Results-wise, Cobb hasn't exactly been Cobb during his rehab, as he allowed five runs and threw 81 pitches over four innings in his last start for the Bulls. Still, the right-hander appears to see the light at the end of the tunnel from his Tommy John surgery that's kept him out since the start of the 2015 season.

"I'm so relieved just to be healthy and just go out there and get my feet wet, and getting an offseason under my belt and getting ready for next year," Cobb said.

Cobb told reporters that every pitcher who has Tommy John surgery goes through different phases during their recoveries.

"You realize that there's hiccups along the way," said Cobb, noting his results "haven't been great."

"But health has been better than I could have expected," he said. "You know, this isn't like riding a bike by any means. But once you get back in the groove of things, it will be, 'OK, I'm back.' ... You'll just know."

Rays manager Kevin Cash smiled when asked what having Cobb would mean next year if he's back to being his old self. The righty posted a 2.87 ERA over 27 starts in 2014.

"Quite a bit," Cash said. "I haven't been so fortunate to get to see him pitch in person, but you hear what all the staff says about him, what our front office and what our teammates say about him, he's the type of leader that we're looking forward to getting.

"Obviously, coming back from injury is difficult and you have to monitor innings, but he's a guy who goes out there, gives a bunch of innings. He just does everything right. To know that we can pencil in a healthy Alex Cobb is only going to make us better."

Cobb's return, along with that of right-hander Chase Whitley, could prompt the Rays to move to a six-man rotation in September. Not only would that allow the team to use more starters, but it would limit the innings for someone like rookie Blake Snell.

Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2005. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.