Alex Cobb appears more eager than nervous about making his first appearance in exactly two months for the Tampa Bay Rays.
Fully recovered from taking a line drive to the head, Cobb looks to help the struggling Rays take a three-game set from the visiting Seattle Mariners on Thursday night.
Cobb (6-2, 3.01 ERA) was perhaps Tampa Bay's most effective starter prior to June 15, when he was struck in the right ear by a ball off the bat of Kansas City's Eric Hosmer in the fifth inning of a 5-3 victory at Tropicana Field.
Thankfully for the right-hander, he was conscious the whole time and left the hospital a day later.
"The fans have been so supportive through all this, whether they're sending in letters or tweeting me," Cobb told the Rays' official website. "It's going to be nice to make my return in front of them."
After his road to recovery included rest, three rehab starts and a battle with a blister on his index finger, Cobb is anxious to get back on a major league mound.
"I'll probably get those first-time-out jitters and the adrenaline going," he said. "I'm really looking forward to getting out there again."
Manager Joe Maddon plans to limit Cobb to about 90 pitches as he tries to pick up where he left off before the injury.
"My mindset will be the same as it was when I was pitching before," said Cobb, who is 3-0 with a 3.35 ERA in his last eight starts overall and 4-0 with a 3.02 ERA in eight at home in 2013. "Hopefully the competitive side of me will take over, and I'll be able to keep this team in the ball game."
Cobb is 1-2 with a 3.52 ERA against the Mariners (75-87).
Tampa Bay (67-51) snapped a season-high six-game slide Wednesday when it rallied for a 5-4 victory over Seattle. Jason Bourgeois hit an RBI single to cap a two-run ninth for the Rays, who trail Boston by three games in the AL East.
"It's almost never easy,'' Maddon said. "When things are getting a little bit awkward, it normally takes an awkward game to win, in order to get you back on task, on track.''
Rays rookie Wil Myers had a two-run homer - his only hit in 15 at-bats after batting .442 over his previous 77.
Seattle's own talented rookie shortstop - Orlando native Brad Miller - drove in two more runs and is 3 for 9 with four RBIs in the series.
Looking to bounce back after their three-game road winning streak ended, the Mariners hope Joe Saunders (10-11, 4.69) can turn things around in the finale.
The left-hander has a 7.20 ERA while dropping three of four following a season-high four-start winning stretch. He gave up nine runs - four earned on a grand slam to Yuniesky Betancourt - over 4 1-3 innings of a 10-5 loss to Milwaukee on Friday.
The Mariners committed three errors in that contest, and five in his last four outings.
Saunders is 0-2 with a 7.59 ERA against the Rays, but has not faced them since 2008.