March 12, 2013; Port Charlotte, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Alex Cobb (53) throws a pitch during the first inning against the New York Yankees at Charlotte Sports Park. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Alex Cobb Rolls But Hak-Ju Lee Makes Critical Error as Rays Lose 3-1 to Yankees

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Talking to reporters about David Price receiving the Rays’ Opening Day nod following the game Tuesday, Alex Cobb joked that he “didn’t get a fair shake.” Everywhere knew that Price would be the Rays’ Opening Day starter- but if who started Opening Day was based on spring training numbers and simply who has looked the best, it would have been Alex Cobb. Cobb has been tremendous all spring, and he was as good as ever on Tuesday, with Joe Maddon describing him as being in “midseason form.”

Cobb went 5 innings allowing no runs on just 2 hits, striking out 6 while not walking a single batter. He lowered his spring ERA to 1.29, but most impressive are his 18 strikeouts against just 1 walk in 14 innings pitched. Cobb was toying with a cutter in his last outing but stayed with his sinker, split-change, and curveball in this one and was able to miss a ton of bats and command them all very well down in the zone, allowing just 1 flyball versus 8 groundballs on the day with even the two hits he allowed coming on the ground.  Cobb has been unbelievable thus far this spring, and it seems like Joe Maddon guaranteeing him the Rays’ 4th starter job has been huge for his confidence and has helped him get primed for a big season and potentially a big performance in his first full year in the major leagues in 2013.

Behind Cobb, Cesar Ramos made his return to Rays camp following an appearance for Mexico in the World Baseball Classic and struck out 1 in a perfect inning while Brandon Gomes followed in the 7th inning with more of the same. Ramos looked great, and after his breakthrough 2012, he looks ready to hold down the second lefty spot in the Rays bullpen behind Jake McGee. Gomes is going to have a tougher time making the roster with guys like Jamey Wright ahead of him right now, but his back is healthy and he was effective for the Rays in 2011, and he’s certainly a reliever who should be getting outs for the Rays at some point in 2013.

Dane De La Rosa took the loss in this game after a tough 8th, but to be fair, it was not entirely his fault. There were runners on first and third with 1 out after a line drive single and a bloop single when De La Rosa got Slade Heathcott to hit a groundball to shortstop. But rushing to try to double up the speedy Heathcott, the normally dependable Hak-Ju Lee booted the ball, allowing a run to score and moving runners to 2nd and 3rd. Bobby Wilson followed with a 2-run single for the Yankees and suddenly they were up 3-0. Rough outing for De La Rosa and disastrous night for Lee as he went just 0 for 3 in the game as well. Lee’s offense is what we know he needs to work on, and his frustration at getting overpowered by upper-level pitching is something he’s taking out into the field, which is not a good thing.

The Rays were able to get a run back in the bottom of the inning on a Mike Fontenot sac fly following a Shelley Duncan walk, an error, and a force out, but that was all the Rays offense could muster as they lost 3-1 in the game. Fontenot went 1 for 3 with his sac fly and Kelly Johnson, Sean Rodriguez, and Wil Myers also went 1 for 3, but the Rays offense was quiet all night.

Frustrating finish for the Rays in this one, but Cobb pitched great and Ramos and Gomes were solid behind him, and the Rays can certainly dwell on the positives when those three, especially Cobb, were just as good as they were. The Rays are off on Wednesday, although David Price will pitch in a minor league game to stay on track for Opening Day, and hopefully thei bats can get back to mashing like they were earlier in the spring when they return to action.

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Tags: Alex Cobb Brandon Gomez Cesar Ramos Tampa Bay Rays

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