Home News Cobb suffers setback, Ray ramps up intensity

Cobb suffers setback, Ray ramps up intensity


SAN FRANCISCO — Alex Cobb may be a medical marvel, but not even he is immune to bumps on his road to recovery.

After breezing through the hard part of his journey back from offseason hip surgery, the 36-year-old right-hander felt some nagging discomfort in his elbow following a recent bullpen session. Diagnosed with a mild flexor strain, Cobb will not throw again for the next few days, but he is already far ahead of schedule and doesn’t expect to be knocked too far off course.

“I could have kept throwing through it, easily, but I wanted to make sure with us being so (advanced) in the rehab, where the team is at with the rotation, this would be a good time to knock out what’s going on,” Cobb said Friday before the Giants’ home opener. “I got it checked out, doctors said elbow itself looks great. A little bit of a flexor strain in the arm. A few days and some meds and it should knock itself out.”

With Blake Snell set to debut Monday, the Giants have five healthy starters for the first time this season. When Cobb returns, he would add a sixth to a group that already counts Friday’s home opener starter Jordan Hicks, Logan Webb, Kyle Harrison and Keaton Winn.

Cobb had progressed to throwing up to five innings in minor-league games before being shut down. He planned to meet with doctors Friday to determine when he can resume his build-up, the final step before he is ready to join the team.

“We should know more when the doctors see him today,” manager Bob Melvin said. “I was saying the other day sometimes these things pop up over the course of kind of a long rehab. He’d been going along so well. It’s just a little inflammation, we think.”

With the team back home, it was the first chance for Cobb, Robbie Ray, Sean Hjelle and other rehabbing players to see many of their teammates since the club broke camp in Arizona. Hjelle was making only a brief appearance — “I figured I’d sneak in, get a little free breakfast and see the guys,” he said — before hitting the road to San Jose, where he was scheduled to throw one inning in his first rehab outing since being shut down midway through spring training with inflammation in his elbow.

Hjelle, like Cobb, is eligible to be activated as soon as Tuesday, but “I would think it’ll be a little bit longer than that,” he said.

“I’m kind of treating this a little bit like spring training in the sense of get that amount of outings and innings under my belt,” Hjelle continued. “Obviously if I’m feeling good and things change, it could be different. That decision is a little above my pay grade.”

When he is ready, Hjelle would likely assume a multiple-inning role in the bullpen, potentially taking the spot of Kai-Wei Teng. The Giants will also have a decision to make when Cobb is ready to return. They could roll with six starters, or Winn could slide into the bullpen, potentially allowing Landen Roupp to continue his development as a starter in the minor leagues.

Through the first week of the season, the Giants pitching staff has a 6.52 ERA, the second-worst mark in the majors, but has also seen the major-league debuts of Roupp, Teng, Erik Miller and Nick Avila.

“Seeing Roupp throw his breaking ball and see a guy like Mookie Betts or Max Muncy walk back to the dugout like, ‘What the heck was that?’ — that’s pretty awesome,” Hjelle said. “Guys were throwing the ball well. It was a tougher road trip to start the year, but I think we’ll be just fine.”

Further down the road, the Giants will be able to add Ray, the 2021 American League Cy Young winner, to their rotation, too. He remains on track to return around the All-Star break and hopes to meet with the training staff this home stand to potentially set a schedule for his eventual rehab starts.

On his way back from Tommy John and flexor tendon surgeries, Ray estimated he has about five more weeks of bullpens in front of him before he begins to face live hitters, which would first come in simulated games before progressing to a minor-league rehab assignment.

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