ST. PETERSBURG -- At first, the overwhelming emotion inside Tropicana Field on Saturday was concern. Rays right-hander Alex Cobb was struck in the right ear by a line drive in the fifth inning of Tampa Bay's 5-3 win over Kansas City and had to be carted off the field on a stretcher, immobilized with his hands folded over his chest.
Later, after getting word that Cobb was only diagnosed with a mild concussion, didn't lose consciousness and all his tests came back normal, the widespread feeling was one of relief.
Cobb was accompanied by team physician Dr. Michael Reilly, heat athletic trainer and teammate David Price as he was taken to Bayfront Medical Center, where he'll remain overnight for further evaluation. It had already been an emotional week for Cobb, who was reinstated from the bereavement list on Friday following the death of his grandmother.
"He seemed pretty normal, so that was good. It's scary, it is, watching that happen," Price said. "It's very unfortunate. He's had a very tough week with everything that's going on. Our hearts are with him. It's just tough to see something like that."
In the top of the fifth inning, Cobb threw a 2-1 fastball to Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer, whose line drive bounced off the right side of Cobb's head back toward home plate. Cobb's hat was knocked off and he immediately fell to the ground, clutching his head just above and behind his right ear.
Catcher Jose Lobaton picked up the ball after it bounced off Cobb's head, throwing it to first base to get the out on Hosmer -- all the while keeping his eyes on Cobb. The Rays rushed toward the mound, kneeling around Cobb and the training staff. Manager Joe Maddon and pitching coach Jim Hickey also came out to the mound to check on Cobb, and Hosmer walked over from first base as well.
"It's scary stuff, a lot of things are racing through my mind and I just kind of shut down after that happened," Hosmer said. "It's not a fun spot to be in, it's just tough."
Can't thank everyone enough for the prayers. Was the only way for me to make it out of there OK. Look forward to getting back out there.- Alex Cobb (@Acobb53) June 16, 2013
Lying facedown on the mound, Cobb did show signs of movement, kicking his legs up and down as he was tended to by Ron Porterfield and a team of trainers and doctors. Porterfield kept him talking the entire time he was on the ground, which Maddon considered an encouraging sign. Cobb was eventually placed on a stretcher and removed from the field.
"The good thing is that when the trainer asked him to say something, he was talking," Lobaton said. "I can't remember what he said, but he said something, so it was like, 'Whoa, he's awake. He knows what he's doing.' So I was happy in that moment for that. But like I said, that was a tough moment for the team."
Outfielders Luke Scott and Matt Joyce said the first thing that came to mind was simply to pray, and that's what they did as they knelt behind the mound and watched the training staff tend to Cobb.
"Pray for the best, you hope for the best, you try to think positive," Joyce said. "You try to think of the best outcome and hopefully that's the case."
"That's a very, very serious thing that happened. It's life-threatening. These things are tragic incidents where the outcome can be disastrous," added Scott. "I've seen miracles in my life. I've seen God himself do the miraculous. That's why I believe in him. He's come through for me time and time again, other people that I've known, there's just many, many testimonies out there. This is no different."
Cobb's father and girlfriend also accompanied him to the hospital, and several Royals -- including Hosmer along with former Rays James Shields and Elliot Johnson -- planned to visit Cobb as well.
"When they were taking him off the field, I ran all the way to other side just to make sure and see if he was all right," Shields said. "I just said to Joe, it's an ex-teammate, a good friend of mine, and you never want to see anyone go down like that. It's something where baseball doesn't matter. It's about just making sure he's all right.
"You never want that to happen -- never. When it first happened, my first reaction was to just see if he was OK, if he was alive. You just never know. You just feel for a guy like that, especially being a pitcher. ... But so far, so good from what I've heard, so we're going to check him out."
This is the second instance this year of a pitcher being hit in the head by a line drive at Tropicana Field. Rays center fielder Desmond Jennings hit a line drive that struck Blue Jays left-hander J.A. Happ just behind his left ear on May 7, resulting in a minor skull fracture that doctors believe will heal on its own. Happ also sustained a knee injury on the play and remains on the Toronto disabled list, but is fortunate things didn't turn out worse.
And in this case, it appears Cobb and the Rays were equally fortunate.
"It's outstanding," Maddon said. "It's awesome, the fact he appears to be fine, because the moment it happens, you immediately imagine the worst.
"You don't even know what to expect. I expected much worse, and so, as it turned out, it appears that we were very lucky. And, of course, Alex was very lucky."