Rays right-hander Alex Cobb announced to reporters that he will undergo Tommy John surgery to repair the torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, according to MLB.com’s Bill Chastain (on Twitter). Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times tweets that Cobb learned yesterday that he has a full tear of the ligament, whereas previous tests had indicated it was only a partial tear.
Cobb will be lost for the remainder of the 2015 season and could be sidelined into June or July of the 2016 season. Cobb’s teammate, Matt Moore, underwent Tommy John on April 22 last year and is expected to return to the Rays at some point in June.
Over the past two seasons, the 27-year-old Cobb has looked the part of a front-line starter when healthy enough to take the hill. He’s worked to a 2.82 ERA with 8.2 K/9, 2.7 BB/9 and a 56 percent ground-ball rate in 309 2/3 innings. He has also, however, missed time with a concussion and an oblique injury, and this season he opened the year on the disabled list due to what was originally termed right forearm tendinitis.
Given his previous level of performance, the loss of Cobb is a crushing reality for a Rays club that hoped to have its top pitcher return to bolster a rotation that has been effective as a whole but has seen some struggles at the back end. Drew Smyly was recently activated from the disabled list to join the starting five, which should help provide some stability. Smyly will now join Chris Archer, Jake Odorizzi, Nate Karns and Alex Colome as the team awaits Moore’s return.
As for Cobb, he’ll be placed on the 15-day DL and, when the team needs a 40-man spot, the 60-day disabled list. He’ll receive Major League service time while injured and continue earning his $4MM salary as he rehabs. Because he didn’t throw a pitch in 2015, Cobb will likely be in line for a very similar, if not identical salary in arbitration this winter. That will mark his second time through the arb process and leave the Rays with roughly one-and-a-half healthy seasons of Cobb, barring any setbacks in his recovery, before he is eligible for free agency at the conclusion of the 2017 season.