For the last seven weeks, Alex Cobb has dominated opposing hitters. Cobb has gone 5-1 in 9 starts, managing an 8.7 K/9, a 3.3 BB/9, and a 55.7% groundball rate in 59.2 innings pitched, nearly 7 innings per start. Cobb isn’t even close to having the best stuff on the Rays’ staff, but he has emerged as the Rays’ most reliable starter and has shown that he is capable of being quite an overpowering pitcher himself. Whenever you see a pitcher burst onto the scene as much as Cobb has, you always question whether it is sustainable. But at least right now, almost every team in baseball would love to have Alex Cobb as a playoff starter. Having Alex Cobb as their starter in their one-game Wild Card playoff against the Cleveland Indians is an enviable position for the Tampa Bay Rays to be in. But Cobb being here has much more significance than just a great pitcher getting the call in the big game as expected. Alex Cobb has enjoyed a breakout year–but not one any pitcher ever hopes for.
Cobb’s season and his career prospects were getting better by the start. Then Eric Hosmer hit the fateful line drive and it all stopped. Cobb went from a pitcher on the rise to a pitcher with a questionable future. He went from a pitcher the Rays could count on to a pitcher they expected nothing from the rest of the year. Cobb had not just a concussion, but an ear problem. Would his concussion sideline him for two months or eight? Would his ear heal like normal or would his balance never be the same? And where did the natural regression of any pitcher that takes a step forward fit in? Cobb’s future was shrouded in doubt and it was going to be a battle for him to get back to being even half the pitcher he was. Instead, like something out of a baseball movie, Cobb returned two months to the day after the line drive and went back to pitching like nothing had happened.
Alex Cobb is an excellent pitcher, but it isn’t just that. He hsd a fire inside him, a constant motivation to prove his doubters wrong and become the pitcher he always believed he could be. Cobb went through the minor leagues as a mostly unheraled prospect, failing to receive the respect he deserved. He fought his way to the major leagues and earned himself a rotation spot. Despite pitching well enough in his rookie season in 2011 to force the Rays into a six-man rotation, he never even got a chance to make the Rays’ roster the following year. He proceeded to pitch even better when he returned and erase any doubt that he belonged on the Rays’ staff. Cobb was used to being questioned at every twist and turn. Why would a concussion and ear issue be any different? Alex Cobb continues to show the Rays that his talent on the mound is a distant second to his indomitable will among everything he offers their team. He is set to make the biggest start of his life and it won’t faze him one bit.