CINCINNATI — Rays starting pitcher Alex Cobb said he felt something pull in his left oblique while throwing a change-up to Reds leadoff hitter Billy Hamilton for strike three to start Saturday’s game. He was hoping for the best, maybe a cramp or a slight pull.
Turns out it is much worse than Cobb believed.
Cobb was placed on the 15-day disabled list before Sunday’s game and sent back to St. Peterburg for an MRI that revealed a strain in his left oblique. He is the second member of the Rays rotation to be sidelined this trip with an injury.
“I wouldn’t say (I’m) shocked, because I did feel something during the game that was pulling at it a little bit,” Cobb said Sunday night on a conference call. “Very disappointed in the fact it’s typically a lengthy rehab process just in the fact you can’t really do too much to speed up the healing process. You have to let it heal on its own.”
Cobb said he was told he can expect to miss four to six weeks.
“That’s the hardest to grasp because it doesn’t feel like that lengthy of an injury,” Cobb said. “Walking around the house, doing daily activities, it’s not that bad.”
Matt Moore was placed on the disabled list Tuesday with left elbow soreness that will force him to miss several months if he decides to rehab the partial tear in his left UCL or the entire season if he opts for surgery.
This leaves the Rays with a rotation of David Price, Chris Archer, Jake Odorizzi, Cesar Ramos and Erik Bedard.
Bedard is scheduled to start Thursday’s game at Tropicana Field against the Yankees.
Ramos, who replaced Moore in the rotation, pitched into the third inning Sunday but left without recording an out. Rays manager Joe Maddon said he wasn’t certain if Ramos would make his next scheduled start.
Mike Montgomery, 2-0 with an 0.90 ERA at Triple-A Durham, could be nearing a promotion to the big club.
The injuries to Cobb and Moore mean three of the Rays’ five starters — Odorizzi, Ramos and Bedard — competed during the spring for the fifth spot in the rotation.
“It’s all right,” Price said. “It’s nothing that we haven’t gone through before. We had similar things last year. Myself went down. Matty, Cobb. We’ve been through this.
“We take pride in having a deep pitching staff. If that means having guys from Durham coming up and helping us out, so be it. That’s a part of baseball. Its an extremely long year. There’s going to be quite a few other clubs that go through the same stuff we’re going through. It just so happens that it’s in the first couple weeks, so that kind of stinks, but it’s better now than in September.”
Cobb said the injury is not related to his batting during the interleague game played at a National League park. He said he might have been dehydrated from pitching outside on a warm, sunny afternoon. Or, he said, it could be one of those injuries associated with pitching. He had the same injury during spring training of 2010 and didn’t make his first start with Double-A Montgomery until May 5.
What upsets him most is how he’s leaving a short-handed rotation without another frontline starter.
“That’s, honestly, what’s making this more difficult,” he said. “The fact that I knew as a staff that me, David, Arch, Jake and Cesar, whoever had to be the fifth starter, was going to have to step and fill that void missing Matt for that lengthy period of time, and now they have to carry on a bigger workload knowing I’m going to miss some time. That’s definitely been the toughest part for me to handle right now.”
What puzzled Maddon was how well Cobb was able to pitch Saturday — seven shutout innings of four-hit ball in a 1-0 victory. Maddon did pinch hit for Cobb in the top of the eighth because of the injury. But Maddon said he thought Cobb either had a cramp or was dehydrated.
“But then you look at the stuff, and none of it made any sense,” Maddon said. “I thought he was fine.”
For a team built around the starting pitching, Sunday’s development was not good. The Rays pride themselves on their pitching depth, but that depth already was taxed with Jeremy Hellickson (right elbow surgery) out until early June and Durham right-hander Alex Colome serving a 50-game suspension after testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug.
Now, two weeks into the season and the Rays are without Moore and Cobb.
“That’s kind of an awkward thought,” Maddon said. “It’s testing our depth, but I’m certain the guys we have here are ready for the challenge. They’ll be fine.”