Rays expected to activate Alex Cobb on Thursday

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Out since mid-April with a strained oblique muscle, Rays right-hander Alex Cobb is scheduled to come off the disabled list Thursday to start against the A’s.

Cobb was off to a very strong start before the injury and tossed five shutout innings in a minor-league rehab start Saturday at Single-A, striking out nine batters and throwing 46 of 64 pitches for strikes.

Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports that Cobb threw a bullpen session this afternoon that was the final touch to convincing the Rays he’s ready to return. Dating back to last season the 25-year-old is 12-4 with a 2.66 ERA in 25 starts.

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.