ST. PETERSBURG -- As Alex Cobb lay on the mound at Tropicana Field having just taken a line drive to the head off the bat of Kansas City's Eric Hosmer, many wondered whether he would ever pitch again.
Cobb's rehab process has gone quicker than expected, but the one thing that could hold him back has nothing to do with his head. Cobb is battling a blister on his right index finger, which forced him to be removed from his last rehab start just two pitches in.
He will give it another try Saturday at Class A Charlotte when he attempts to throw four innings or 65 pitches, whichever comes first.
"It sounds like a pretty wimpy injury but it's pitchers' kryptonite, it really is," Cobb said Friday. "It's not something you can pitch around. It's there on every pitch. You can't alter arm angles or the way you pitch. That's the last place the ball leaves your body and you feel it."
Cobb has dealt with blister issues in the past but it has reared its head again for two reasons. Tropicana Field's dome eliminates humidity that could enter the blister each time Cobb makes a home start, a luxury Charlotte Sports Park does not provide.
Cobb said he develops a callus on his finger throughout the season, but because of the head injury, he was not allowed to throw for almost two weeks.
Tampa Bay's training staff has tried applying different ointments and laser treatment to strengthen the skin.
Manager Joe Maddon does not feel the blister could keep Cobb out for an extended amount of time. The team expects to have him back in the starting rotation by the time it returns from a West Coast road trip Aug. 13.
"Isn't it awkward?" Maddon said. "He gets hit in the head and a blister is keeping him out. It's strange but it also speaks to the power of the blister. When pitchers get blisters, man, it can really make a big difference. Go back to Nolan Ryan with the pickle brine. Samson can come to his knees with a blister. He'll be fine."
Skipper agrees Longoria's struggles are mental
ST. PETERSBURG -- Rays manager Joe Maddon often gives his players personal instruction during pregame batting practice. He does not often give such advice to Evan Longoria, as he was before Friday's game.
The Rays' 21-5 record in July marked their best month in team history, but Longoria, a three-time All-Star and widely considered to be one of Tampa Bay's best hitters, had the second-worst month of his career at the plate.
The most remarkable thing about the Rays' record month might be that Longoria hit just .194 in 25 July games. He struck out 37 times, a personal record in any month.
Maddon has seen something change in Longoria's approach, but he cannot quite identify what it is.
"It has to be a lot of what he's thinking about," Maddon said. "Primarily, it's the classic moments where you're swinging at balls and taking strikes. He just has to clear his mind a little bit and let it fly. He does not look different from a physical perspective. I think he's just thinking differently."
Longoria, who was bothered by plantar fasciitis in his right foot last month, said everything is fine from a physical perspective.
"It's definitely mental when you get to a point where you've had a couple of tough games in a row and you start to wonder why it's not happening," Longoria said. "Throughout the course of my career, I've been able to be mentally stronger than those and figure out the reason why and be able to put it behind me."
Longoria did hit four home runs in July and posted an 11-game hitting streak. He is one of just four Major Leaguers to have three hitting streaks of 10 games or more this season.
Maddon likes what he sees from red-hot Rays
ST. PETERSBURG -- Entering Friday night's action, the Rays were 23-5 since June 29, which tied the Dodgers for the best 28-game stretch in the Major Leagues this season.
Since 2006, only two other American League teams have had a 28-game stretch that good: the 2011 Tigers and 2010 White Sox.
During that period, the Rays pitched to a 2.49 ERA, lowering their season ERA from 4.22 to 3.76.
The Rays also finished July at 21-5, giving the club its best record for any month.
Rays manager Joe Maddon was asked what his team can do for an encore after going 21-5.
Go "22-4," Maddon said. "How many days in August? Just the one-day-at-a-time stuff, man. I think that was really a strong point of ours during the month. Prior to the [All-Star] break, and post break, really just pleased with the daily way of the group. The way we've gone about our business, the way they've played the games, the way they've interacted, all of that has been fabulous to watch."