When we thought about Alex Cobb returning the past few months, we imagined him coming back as a savior for a faltering rotation. As it turns out, the Tampa Bay Rays rotation really has not been that bad. Erik Bedard and Jake Odorizzi have rebounded strongly from rough starts, and Cesar Ramos was great until his last two outings. The biggest issues in the Rays’ rotation have been none other than David Price and Chris Archer, the two pitchers the Rays thought they could rely on the most. Cobb will certainly be a major upgrade over Ramos, but he can’t do much to help Price and Archer find consistency. The bigger issues with the Rays, however, have been the bullpen–although it too is doing much better–and the offense. Cobb is a pitcher, not a hitter, and a vintage outing from him where he allows two runs over seven innings will not be enough if the offense can’t get its act together. Having Cobb back will help, but can he really change the fortunes of what has been a faltering team?
Alex Cobb the pitcher will help the Rays rotation. For the rest of the team, however, Alex Cobb the symbol will be just as important. Cobb is the pitcher that can remind the Rays of better times. After the start where Cobb got hurt, the Rays were 7-5. He can remind his teammates that just five weeks ago, they were playing fine, and they have the ability to get back there. Cobb’s own story could just as easily inspire. Cobb suffered a concussion last season, but he did not let it stop his breakout year. What is a rough start to the season to a pitcher that saw his career flash before his eyes just a year ago? If Ben Zobrist is the hitter that best exemplifies the Rays through his versatility at the plate and in the field and his hustle, then Alex Cobb is the pitcher. Since 2010, the Rays have overcome doubters year after year to win 90 games each season. Cobb has been the same way, never being more than a decent prospect, but proving people wrong at every level until he became one of the best pitchers in baseball. The Rays need that reminder of the struggles they have faced year after year and have managed to fight through.
When Alex Cobb takes the mound this afternoon, the Rays will be getting an excellent starting pitcher back from injury, but hopefully that is not all. The Rays need an inspiration and something to help them remember how good they can still be, and Alex Cobb can give them exactly that.