ST. PETERSBURG -- Alex Cobb has made the trip to Tropicana Field several times, but Monday's visit to the stadium was special to the Rays starter.
Cobb was back at the Trop for the first time since June 15, when he was struck by a line drive in the head off the bat of Kansas City's Eric Hosmer in the fifth inning, forcing an overnight stay in the hospital.
Cobb -- who said Monday was the best he has felt since the injury -- met with reporters before returning to the clubhouse.
"I've been looking forward to this day since I was released from the hospital," Cobb said. "I've been going crazy at the house. My girlfriend gives me a walk twice a day with the dog. That's the extent of my fun."
While a return date is unknown and Cobb remains on the disabled list, doctors told Cobb on Monday he is healing quicker than expected and he can expect to see "drastic improvements" in the coming days.
Cobb still gets headaches when he moves too suddenly, but the nausea and vertigo he was experiencing have subsided as fluid that was trapped in his inner ear from the blow has drained.
"I've had some injuries in the past -- ankles, shoulders, whatever it may be -- where you can fight through it and handle the pain," Cobb said. "There's just no way to do that with this type of injury. It's with you every second of the day."
Still, he is determined to get back to the mound, where he has compiled a 6-2 record with a 3.01 ERA this season.
"I've read a few things where people said I might not pitch again this year," Cobb said. "There couldn't be anything further from the truth. I'll be ready to go as soon as my body tells my I'm 100 percent."
That being said, Cobb acknowledged his first time back on the mound could be difficult. He admitted to having "nightmares" about how the incident could have ended.
"I would love to sit here and tell you no, that I'll have the mindset that it happened once and probably won't happen again, but I'm not going to lie. That's in the back of my mind."
After Toronto pitcher J.A. Happ was hit with a line drive in the same stadium last month, Cobb advocated for improved protection for pitchers.
Major League Baseball has long been in conversation with several equipment companies in an effort to improve pitchers' safety, but league spokesman Pat Courtney told the Washington Post last month, "No company has yet developed a product that has satisfied the testing criteria."
Although Cobb feels additional protection should be a pitcher's choice, he remained in support of additional safety measures Monday.
"You want to do everything you can to protect your future and your family," Cobb said. "If something more serious happens with death or any other serious injury, it wouldn't be a fun thing to think about if we had the opportunity to wear something. We're just not given that opportunity right now."
Sam Strong is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.