Aug 21, 2014; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Alex Cobb (53) points to shortstop Yunel Escobar (11) (not pictured) during the third inning against the Detroit Tigers at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Alex Cobb, the Tampa Bay Rays' Bulldog...and Ace

At 6’3” and 200 pounds, Alex Cobb cuts a formidable figure on the pitcher’s mound. When I first saw him in his Tampa Bay Ray uniform, he looked like an NFL Tight End more than an MLB Pitcher. Alex Cobb hasn’t disappointed me or Rays fans one bit. This guy is a bulldog in every sense of the word. Combine his presence with his impressive pitches, and there should be no doubt that he is also the ace of the Rays’ staff.

Don’t let the smile or demeanor fool you. He can throw a 92 MPH fastball at your chin without blinking an eye. Don’t for a minute think he’s soft, he’ll make you look silly on one of his nasty split-fingers that seems like it drops two feet in the last two feet it travels. Don’t even let the thought enter your mind that Alex Cobb is still shaken by that Eric Hosmer line drive last year he took off his noggin. He came back after a couple months on the DL last year to finish the season 5-1 with a 2.41 ERA in 9 starts. All the attributes that we look for in our athletes today, Cobb has them. He shows them and he exemplifies them every time he takes the hill. Strength – check. Perseverance – check. Intestinal fortitude – double check.

Alex Cobb definitely has major league-quality pitches but having said that, he doesn’t possess the hardest fastball. He doesn’t throw the curve the breaks the most. Frankly, when so-called “experts” talk about the best pitchers in the game, you never hear his name come up. What Cobb manages to do game in and game out, however, is throw what he needs at the time he needs it most. When he needs that extra mile or two on his fastball, he finds it and heaves it past a hitter. When he needs that sharp break in his curve to get the batter to hit a weak grounder, he cuts the pitch just enough to get the desired movement.

It is clear that Cobb’s best pitch is his split-finger.  The discussion on who has the best splitter is hardly ever made, if it was, there is no doubt, Alex Cobb must be in this discussion.  When he needs a Bruce Sutter-like splitter to fall off the proverbial table, he drops it like it’s hot and hitters flail at a pitch that more often than not, bounces in to the catcher.  Even if they get a piece of it, they usually end up hitting weak ground balls to the infield.

Bulldog. He fights with what he has when he needs to in order to help his team. Reminds me of a guy I saw when I lived in Chicago by the name of Greg Maddux. Now, it is blatantly unfair for me to draw comparisons between Cobb and the recent Hall of Famer. But here is what they have in common: the will to win and the desire to be the ace of the staff.  Time will tell if Cobb will become a perennial All-Star but he does have the fire in his belly that many before him had. Here’s betting that he will.

Rays fans hated to see David Price traded. It is great to have one of the best pitchers on the planet as your ace. It is nice to have a guy who can throw a mid-90’s heater for 8 or 9 innings. But we understand the realities of the business side of the game, and it is not as though the Rays’ starting staff is hopeless without him. Don’t for a minute discount what the Rays have in Alex Cobb. He is not Price, but he is is a bonafide ace of a Major League pitching staff in his own right. He’s smart, tough as nails, and will fight with every ounce of energy and stamina that he possesses. He showed in his last start in matching Price almost pitch for pitch to win the game, 1-0. With the Rays desperate for a win tonight, expect more of the same.That’s what a bulldog does. He finds whatever he needs to beat the other guy.

Tags: Alex Cobb Tampa Bay Rays

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