As the Rays are in the midst of a surge that has catapulted them into one of the two Wild Card berths, the biggest potential Achilles Heel may be the back of the rotation. Chris Archer has been solid overall in his first sustained stretch in the majors, but has had bouts of inconsistency. Roberto Hernandez will occasionally provide a solid outing, but is more likely to get roughed up than anything else. The Rays likely need to locate an upgrade for either of those two pitchers.
That upgrade may be on the horizon, and not in the form of a trade. Alex Cobb, less than a month after he got hit in the head by an Eric Hosmer line drive, had his second session of throwing from a mound. Cobb is presently facing another session on Thursday, and would begin throwing batting practice afterwards. If everything goes well, Cobb is hoping to be back pitching for the Rays by late July to early August.
Of course, there are still hurdles to that goal. First, Cobb has yet to pass the MLB mandated concussion test, and will not be cleared until that happens. Second, Cobb has to get onto the mound against live hitters. Seeing how he reacts to a batted ball through the box, or back towards him – even if he has the safety net – will be a vital part of determining whether or not he should be pitching in a game at this point. Third, and perhaps most importantly, Cobb would have to make it through this without any setbacks. Considering how tricky head injuries can be, even if he seems fine now, the symptoms could flare up again in another week.
Should Cobb pass all three hurdles and achieve his goal of being back by the beginning of August, then his return would be the equivalent of receiving an impact arm at the trade deadline. The Rays, already having been boosted by the return of David Price and the callup of Wil Myers, would find themselves once again getting better, without having to part with anything.
Considering how it looked when he was hit by that line drive, the fact that Alex Cobb may be back by late July to early August is amazing. If he does return at that point, his timing could not be better for the Rays.