The Tampa Bay Rays had already lost Jeremy Hellickson to begin the year, Matt Moore after his second start, and Alex Colome to a drug suspension. They could ill afford to lose another starter, and they needed everyone they had to be reliable. Instead, one of the pitchers they were relying upon the most, Alex Cobb, has been placed on the disabled list with a strained left oblique. How are the Rays going to stay afloat with all these injuries to starting pitchers?
Alex Cobb was outstanding in his third start of 2014, tossing 7 shutout innings as the Tampa Bay Rays beat the Cincinnati Reds 1-0. But Cobb was seen stretching throughout the game, indicating that something was wrong, and it turned out to be something significant. Cobb has at times been the Rays’ best pitcher, but he has also had the unfortunate knack of getting hurt right when he is looking his best on the mound. After an impressive 9-start debut in 2011, a rib injury ended his season, and then of course there was the line drive last year. The Rays have to hope that Cobb will be out something close to the minimum 15 days–luckily he did not suffer an arm injury–but losing him for that period of time is still a major blow.
Left from the Rays’ starting five to begin the year are David Price, Chris Archer, and Jake Odorizzi. Cesar Ramos takes the mound today to replace Matt Moore, and Erik Bedard is also expected to come up in a relief role. At this point, expect Bedard to go only an inning or two today in preparation for a start replacing Cobb on Thursday. If the Rays are looking for another option to start games, Mike Montgomery has been unhittable to begin the year at Triple-A Durham, allowing just 1 run on 6 hits in 10 innings of work, striking out 12, and while Montgomery is not the top prospect he used to be, it may be time to give him a chance. He also just started yesterday, so he would be on regular rest to replace Cobb if necessary. Beyond Montgomery, Nate Karns started 3 games for the Washington Nationals last season while Enny Romero made a spot-start for the Rays last season.
The Tampa Bay Rays do have enough talented pitchers to replace Alex Cobb and Matt Moore without making an outside move, but you never want to be in a position where you are relying heavily on unproven players. The Rays entered the year with World Series hopes and those are not gone yet, but now they have clear obstacles in their way and they need players to step up to overcome them. With Cobb out, players like Ramos, Bedard, and maybe even a prospect like Montgomery will get their chances, and the Rays need them to deliver.