Alex Cobb aims to return before end of May

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Rays starter Alex Cobb is ahead of schedule in his recovery from a severely-strained left oblique.

The right-hander threw what Rays manager Joe Maddon described as an “electric” bullpen session on Tuesday afternoon and told reporters after the workout that he expects to be back in Tampa Bay’s rotation before the end of May. The initial recovery timetable had him in rehab mode until mid June.

Cobb registered a 1.89 ERA and 14 strikeouts in 19 innings before landing on the disabled list April 13.

The 26-year-old shut out the Reds for seven frames in his final start before the oblique strain diagnosis.

Japanese Baseball to begin June 19

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Japanese League commissioner Atsushi Saito announced that Japan’s professional baseball season will open on June 19. Teams can being practice games on June 2. There will be no fans. Indeed, the league has not yet even begun to seriously discuss a plan for fans to begin attending games, though that may happen eventually.

The season will begin three months after its originally scheduled opening day of March 20. It will be 120 games long. Teams in each six-team league — the Central League and Pacific League — will play 24 games against each league opponent. There will be no interleague play and no all-star game.

The announcement came in the wake of a national state of emergency being lifted for both Tokyo and the island of Hokkaido. The rest of the country emerged from the state of emergency earlier this month. This will allow the Japanese leagues to follow leagues in South Korea and Taiwan which have been playing for several weeks.

In the United States, Major League Baseball is hoping to resume spring training in mid June before launching a shortened regular season in early July. That plan is contingent on the league and the players’ union coming to an agreement on both financial arrangements and safety protocols for a 2020 season. Negotiations on both are ongoing. Major League Baseball will, reportedly, make a formal proposal about player compensation tomorrow.