Alex Cobb returned to the Tampa Bay Rays’ rotation and, finally, some semblance of normality may be settling in for the Rays. It is becoming more and more evident that pitching rules baseball and Cobb’s presence is very welcomed by everyone because of it. David Price did his best to keep things in order but, when he got off to a slow start, it only heaped more pressure on him, as well as the rest of the rotation, to perform. As well, Cobb’s injury pushed Chris Archer, Jake Odorizzi, and Cesar Ramos into higher pressure positions they might not have been ready for. Odorizzi and Archer have struggled at times and the Rays record is what it is because of it. But finally, Cobb’s return allows everyone to slot into the roles that they are more comfortable with.
As mentioned, baseball begins with the starting pitching. The offense draws from it, knowing they will not have to score a million runs just to compete, and the defense feeds off it when it keeps them on their toes. Cobb is not the ace of the Rays’ staff, but when he is on the mound you wouldn’t know it. For his career, Cobb is 26-15 with a very good career 3.24 ERA, 7.5 K/9, 2.8 BB/9, and 3.49 FIP. He is a steady performer who is a groundball machine, as his 56.4 GB% proves. The Rays last year had Gold Glove finalists at all four infield positions last season, so the team is certainly built to Cobb’s skill set. Having Cobb back is key for the Rays to turn around their disastrous start to the season.
Confidence is infectious. Cobb takes nothing for granted, and never has. When he takes the mound, the Rays know that they are going to get his all. Not that all the starters don’t do the same, but the way Cobb competes even on days that he is not at his best is tough to match. It is unfortunate that he suffered the injury when he did, as everyone was looking for a Cy Young-type season from Cobb. But even though that might be out of reach now, he will be vital to their season from here on out. If Joe Maddon can consistently count on him for innings, that will bring rest and stability to a bullpen that at times has looked shell-shocked. In addition, the offense can go about their business and not be pressured to score more than 3 or 4 runs in games that he pitches. Cobb not only makes the rotation better, he makes the entire team better thanks to the his ability to give his team a chance to win every time he pitches.
It is probably too much pressure to heap on him, but if anyone is up the challenge of turning this season around, it is Alex Cobb. Whether or not he helps start a push toward the playoffs remains to be seen. But whatever the case, the Tampa Bay Rays are a much better team with him than without him.