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.

Alex Dickerson to miss 2017 season after undergoing back surgery

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Padres’ outfielder Alex Dickerson won’t see PETCO Park anytime soon — at least, not as its starting left fielder. The 27-year-old was diagnosed with a bulging disc in his lower back prior to the start of the 2017 season, and hasn’t made any kind of substantial progress in the months since. According to Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune, he suffered a setback in his recovery process last week and is set to undergo a season-ending discectomy next Wednesday.

Over 285 plate appearances, Dickerson batted .257/.333/.455 with 10 home runs and a .788 OPS for the Padres in 2016. He missed several days with a right hip contusion last July, but hasn’t experienced any substantial health problems since undergoing surgery in 2014 to repair a torn ligament in his left ankle.

The expected recovery period for lower back surgery is 3-4 months, according to Lin, which puts Dickerson’s estimated return just a few days before the end of the regular season. The Padres aren’t scraping the bottom of the NL West, but their 29-44 record doesn’t bode well for a postseason run this year. Assuming Dickerson rehabs his back in a timely manner, he should be in fine form to enter the competition for left field next spring.

Video: Hanley Ramirez’s No. 250 career home run barely left the field

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Hanley Ramirez played a pivotal role during the Red Sox’ 9-4 win over the Angels on Friday night, crushing a two-run homer off of Alex Meyer to bring the Sox up to a four-run lead in the fourth inning.

Well, crushed might be the wrong word. The ball cleared the right field fence with a mere 350 feet, landing just beyond Pesky’s Pole to bring Ramirez’s career home run total to an even 250.

According to the ESPN Home Run Tracker, Ramirez’s milestone blast wasn’t the shortest home run of the year — not by a long shot. That distinction currently belongs to Rays’ outfielder Corey Dickerson, who skimmed the left field fence at Rogers Centre with a 326-foot homer back in April.