PORT CHARLOTTE - For all the tests Tampa Bay Rays starter Alex Cobb passed to return to action, the last that remained was him making at least two rehab starts. On Tuesday at Charlotte Sports Park, as a member of the Class-A Charlotte Stone Crabs, Cobb suffered his first setback in his quest to return to the Rays, throwing just two pitches before leaving the game as a precaution with a blister on his right index finger. Cobb said the blister originally occurred during his bullpen session "two or three days ago," but he thought he could work through it. "We took pretty good care of it throughout the week and thought that we could cover it up," Cobb said. "It started popping up a little bit, and I thought the best decision was probably to shut it down rather than let it get more aggravated and severe."
Cobb warmed up as he normally does in the bullpen, where he said the blister started to feel more tender. He considered calling off the start, but he instead took the mound and threw a ball to Dunedin's Jon Berti. After a strike evened the count, Cobb motioned toward the dugout, prompting athletic training coordinator Joe Benge to visit the mound. Benge examined Cobb's right hand, and within minutes, Cobb was heading back toward the clubhouse. "We thought I might be able to get through these four innings today and it would be better by next start," Cobb said. "I think if I kept trying to push through it, it would have prolonged my next start." Though disappointed, Cobb said he called Rays head athletic trainer Ron Porterfield, who told him he made the right decision. "I spoke to Ron, and he was happy I came out and didn't try to push it and push this back even further," Cobb said. "As much as I wanted to be out there and stay out there, it would have delayed the main goal of getting back to the Trop." As far as treating the blister, Cobb said there were different remedies such as pickle juice, but more than likely the body would have to take care of it itself. Cobb has had hand problems as recently as late May, when a cut between his finger and nail forced him to miss a start, though he said that was not related to Tuesday's injury. He did say he had similar blister problems while coming up in the minors, most notably when he was with the Stone Crabs in 2009. "My fingers just weren't able to get that callus back that I had before I went down," Cobb said. "I've had this in humidity with the affiliates, but I haven't had that issue playing in the Trop." Although limited, Tuesday was Cobb's first game action since being struck in the head with a line drive off the bat of Kansas City's Eric Hosmer on June 15 at Tropicana Field. Since his mild concussion, Cobb was limited to throwing bullpen sessions and batting practice, as well as a four-inning simulated game last week in Port Charlotte against Stone Crabs hitters. Cobb passed each test, saying he felt good. As he works to rejoin Tampa Bay, Cobb will likely have at least two more starts for Charlotte, the next likely to come Sunday in Tampa against the Yankees. "I think we're going to have to make that up on the fly," Cobb said. "What I'm hoping is my next start will be sooner than later, which is why I tried coming out of the game today. Hopefully this weekend will be a possibility."