ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — In a moment Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon described as “awful,” Kansas City Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer hit a line drive that struck right-hander Alex Cobb in the head in the top of the fifth inning Saturday at Tropicana Field in the Rays’ 5-3 victory.
Cobb was hit on his right ear, causing the ball to bounce toward catcher Jose Lobaton, almost to the dirt, after impact. Medical personnel immobilized Cobb, who bled on the mound, and transported him to nearby Bayfront Medical Center for further examination.
Cobb remained conscious the entire time, even “laughing at the nurse’s jokes,” according to Rays left-hander David Price, who was with Cobb at the hospital.
According to the Rays, Cobb was diagnosed with a mild concussion and all tests came back normal. The ball off Hosmer’s bat traveled at 102.4 mph, according to Sun Sports data. The Rays say Cobb will spend the night at Bayfront Medical Center and await more evaluation.
“When they rolled him over, Cobber was talking, and that was a good thing, and they kept him talking,” Maddon said.
“It’s just one of those really, really bad moments. Everybody feels terrible about it, but that’s part of our game, and it stinks sometimes. It’s a horrible moment to witness.”
There was an 11-minute delay as medical personnel tended to Cobb. Cobb, face down, grabbed his head with both hands and kicked in pain shortly after the incident.
Maddon, pitching coach Jim Hickey and numerous Rays players, including shortstop Yunel Escobar and left fielder Luke Scott, gathered and knelt near the site as Cobb was placed on a stretcher and carted off the field behind home plate.
The dome remained quiet as Cobb was assisted, and some among the announced attendance of 18,593 stood and cheered as he was wheeled away.
The scene was eerily similar to an incident May 7 at Tropicana Field involving Toronto Blue Jays left-hander J.A. Happ, who suffered a skull fracture behind his left ear and a sprained right knee after 1 1/3 innings of an eventual Rays victory. He remains on the 60-day disabled list and has rehabbed in nearby Dunedin, Fla., the site of the Blue Jays’ spring training facility.
“You don’t want to bring it up,” Cobb said on May 8, the day after Happ was hit. “It’s almost like you don’t talk about getting hit by a car. You don’t talk about those things, because you feel like if you talk about it, the chances are it might happen. It’s just one of those things you ignore.
“We all think about it,” Cobb said that day. “We know the chances of it happening. It’s a strong dose of reality, the fact of how easily that can happen. It’s not going to be something that’s going to change my approach on the mound. It’s not going to change my intensity on the mound. It has always been in the back of my mind, and it’s still going to be in the back of my mind.”
After the game Saturday, Hosmer, who was thrown out at first by Lobaton, called the incident “scary,” and said he was so shaken that “I honestly didn’t even want to run to first (base). I just wanted to see how he was doing.”
Kansas City manager Ned Yost added that such an incident “makes everybody in the stadium sick to their stomach” and “we’ve got our fingers crossed, but I think he’s going to be OK.”
Hosmer was the leadoff batter in the fifth. The incident occurred after he hit a 91-mph fastball from Cobb, the fourth pitch of the at-bat. Left-hander Alex Torres came in as relief, though both teams remained affected by Cobb’s injury once played resumed.
“It’s scary stuff,” Hosmer added. “There’s a lot of things racing through my mind, and I just kind of shut down after that happened. It’s not a fun spot to be in … It was just one of those things where right off the bat, that’s the first thing I saw. It was scary.”
The Rays clubhouse was quieter than usual for a post-victory situation, but Cobb’s teammates were relieved to hear that tests revealed positive news. Maddon was quick to praise the work of Rays head athletic trainer Ron Porterfield and his staff, calling their efforts “beyond professional.”
Porterfield, who was selected Thursday to work the All-Star Game for the American League, and medical team physician Dr. Michael Reilly accompanied Cobb to the hospital.
“He seemed pretty normal, so that was good,” Price said of Cobb. “It’s scary watching that happen. It’s very unfortunate … He told me that Porterfield was making him really mad on the field, because he wouldn’t let him stand up. So it was good that he wanted to be able to stand up, and he knew where he was.”
Said Lobaton: “It was something really bad. I was talking to the guys after that, ‘It wasn’t in the arm. It wasn’t in the leg. It was just in the head.’ They’ve got no protection. Hopefully, it’s good.”
Said Scott: “I just began to pray. That’s a very, very serious thing to happen. It’s life-threatening. These things are tragic incidents where the outcome can be disastrous. The first thing, I just began to pray.”
Added first baseman James Loney: “You would like to see him protected. He’s trying to react. What else can you do? It’s not one of those collisions at the plate where it would be a little different situation. He’s helpless, pretty much. It’s impossible to block it. You want him to be protected.”
Cobb, who has a 6-2 record with a 3.01 ERA in 13 appearances, was making his first start since being activated from the bereavement list Friday after attending the funeral of his maternal grandmother, Nancy Miller, 85, in Worcester, Mass. He threw 78 pitches and gave up two runs, four hits and struck out three.
Late Saturday night, Cobb took to Twitter to thank fans for their support and concerns.
Can’t thank everyone enough for the prayers. Was the only way for me to make it out of there ok. Look forward to getting back out there.