When Alex Cobb signed a four-year, $57 million contract with the Orioles in late March of last year, Baltimore thought that they were getting a top-of-the-rotation starter who could help solidify a starting pitching staff in desperate need of inning-eaters. They knew that they were getting a veteran who finished with an earned run average (ERA) below 3.00 in two of the four seasons in Tampa Bay in which he started a minimum of 22 games.
Just over a year into the biggest Orioles contract handed out to a pitcher since Ubaldo Jimenez‘s four-year, $50 million deal was signed before the 2014 season, Cobb hasn’t lived up to the billing.
Maybe I’m being a little harsh, but it’s hard not to ask this question a few hours after Cobb was placed on the 10-day injured list for the second time this season. It’s April 9, by the way. Just a week after Cobb came off the IL with a minor groin injury and pitched 5.2 innings in Baltimore’s home opener against the Yankees, he’s back on the shelf with a lumbar strain.
Last year during his first season in Baltimore, Cobb never landed on the previously-named “disabled list,” but he was pulled from three separate starts with finger blisters and missed his final regular season outing.
The blisters were especially problematic because they got in the way in the second half of the season when Cobb cut his 6.41 first half ERA down to 2.56. Cobb’s 2018 season got off to a terrible start, but that can be attributed to the fact that he was signed by the Orioles just a week before they opened the regular season.
Unlike many veterans who get released at the end of Spring Training only to get picked up right away by another team, Cobb basically went all of spring training without simulated reps. Pitchers can work with their own people in their own time, but it’s hard to develop chemistry with fielders when you’re a free agent. Anyone, especially a pitcher under those circumstances, would understandably need at least a few weeks (or even months) to get up-to-speed.
The good news for Cobb is, as I said earlier, it’s April 9. Even though the lower back issue is the second ailment that’s forced Cobb to the IL this season, he has plenty of time to get himself healthy. There are a number of injections that pitchers are given to help with this type of injury, but remember that back injuries are always tricky.
Regardless of how long it takes for Cobb to recover from this latest setback, it’s fair to be concerned over the 31-year-old’s longevity. It’s also reasonable to question the Orioles decision to sign Cobb less than two years after the right-hander underwent Tommy John surgery. The Orioles have seen first-hand how it’s possible for pitchers to regress after this serious operation (hello, Dylan Bundy). But when your starting rotation is constantly among the weakest areas on the roster, these types of signings are often necessary.
I’m no doctor, but I can’t help but wonder if all of these minor injuries are a n indicator that Cobb’s body is beginning to shut down on him. If there’s something to be encouraged by, it’s that Cobb’s throwing arm seems to be fine. When Cobb comes off the IL and is inserted back into the rotation, his durability and body language on the mound will be on my radar.
Is Cobb’s tenure with the Orioles thus far a big disappointment to you? Comment with your thoughts!
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