Mar 5, 2014; Port Charlotte, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays pitcherAlex Cobb
(53) talks with pitcherChris Archer
(22) in the dugout against the New York Yankees at Charlotte Sports Park. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
An Ace to Lead them
Alex Cobb is expected to be the leader of the Rays’ pitching staff in 2015 both because of his performance and his actions off the field. On the mound, Cobb has the best combination of command and stuff of the Rays’ starters and was dominant last year, going 10-9 with a 2.87 ERA and a 149-47 strikeout to walk ratio.
In addition, Cobb is already starting to prove himself a mentor to the Rays’ younger pitchers. Last spring, he took the time to teach Jake Odorizzi a split-change, and the pitch was the catalyst for Odorizzi’s breakout season. Expect more pitchers to learn Cobb’s split-change before long, and from the Rays’ perspective, the more the merrier.
The only issue concerning Cobb is his lack of durability. While he has always seemed like a bulldog pitcher, he has never thrown even 180 innings in a season between the minors and majors. If Cobb can finally have an injury-free year and approach 200 innings, that could be the final thing he needs to truly be the Rays’ ace.
However, it is worth noting that Chris Archer won’t give up the Rays’ ace title without a fight. In contrast to Cobb, Archer reached 194.2 innings in 2014, accompanying it with a 10-9 record and 3.33 ERA. He is also incredibly well-spoken, a trait that could serve him well when talking to the Rays’ other pitchers. Before that happens, though, Archer needs to work through his command issues.
Archer’s walk rate was fine in 2014, coming in at 3.3 per 9 innings, yet there were times when he suffered bouts of wildness. Making those bouts come more rarely is all Archer needs to turn into the top-of-the-rotation starter that he has always had the ability to be. From there, leadership in the Rays’ staff could be next.