Alex Cobb faces hitters for first time since concussion

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Alex Cobb hasn’t pitched in a game since taking an Eric Hosmer line drive off the side of his head back on June 15. But his return is probably nearing.

According to beat writer Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times, the right-hander threw live batting practice on Sunday afternoon at Tropicana Field without a protective screen and reported no mental or physical discomfort. It was his first time facing live hitters since he was diagnosed with a concussion.

“It’s a relief,” Cobb told reporters after the workout. “When the incident happens, you think the worst naturally, so being back out there kind of settles your nerves. And you realize that you can do it again. So I’m happy.”

Cobb is scheduled to throw another round of batting practice on Thursday in Port Charlotte, Florida — the site of Rays spring training. If that goes smoothly, he should be cleared for a minor league rehab start.

The 25-year-old had a 3.01 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and 76/23 K/BB ratio through 83 2/3 innings this season.

Mets to move Matt Harvey to the bullpen

Matt Harvey
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Mets right-hander Matt Harvey is heading to the bullpen, according to comments made by club manager Mickey Callaway on Saturday. As predicted, Harvey doesn’t appear to be taking the news particularly well, going so far as to tell Callaway that the decision has him “at a 10 with being pissed off” and that he’s motivated to prove himself as a starter.

It’s been rough going for Harvey this spring. After missing significant time to a shoulder injury last season, the 29-year-old righty returned to the mound with a lot left to prove. He pitched to an 0-2 record in four starts, issuing 14 runs, four home runs and 17 strikeouts in 21 innings. It’s been a while since the Mets have seen anything better out of their starter — he hasn’t turned in a sub-4.00 ERA since 2015 and hasn’t pitched well enough to earn an All-Star berth since 2013 — and now it appears they’re at the end of their rope.

At this point, the Mets insist that the shift is a temporary one. While Callaway has helped successfully convert several starters to the bullpen, including Trevor Bauer and Carlos Carrasco, that’s not the plan for this veteran right-hander. Instead, both the team and Harvey seem to view the change as a way to clear up any mental blocks Harvey may be encountering on the mound. “We know he’s healthy,” assistant GM John Ricco told reporters. “He’s feeling good. Then you get to, is this a little bit of a mental thing, a confidence thing? One of the things we talk about is getting him into the ‘pen, where he can have success in short spurts, get that confidence back and really let it go and get back to being a guy who can dominate the way he’s shown in the past.”

Harvey will be eligible to pitch out of the bullpen on Tuesday, when the Mets are scheduled to kick off their next road series against the Cardinals. As for his replacement, left-hander Jason Vargas will resume his role in the rotation when he comes off the disabled list next Saturday.