None of the Tampa Bay Rays’ latest injuries have been serious. Brandon Guyer should be ready for the start of the season while Drew Smyly and Alex Colome could be back by mid-April. However, yet another player has gone down, and he is more critical to the Rays’ success than any of the others: Alex Cobb. Cobb left his outing on Tuesday with forearm tightness, and the Rays better hope that he will be fine.
While he was on the mound, Cobb was dominant. He tossed 3 perfect innings, striking out 3 and getting 4 more outs on the ground. However, he left after just 32 pitches on a day where he was supposed to throw around 65, and we later heard why. Cobb felt some tightness in his right forearm prior to his start, and while it went away over the course of his outing, he felt it again after three innings and have to leave the game.
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Cobb described the injury as “cramping” so we are not exactly talking about something catastrophic here. Cobb still expects to make his next start, so maybe this will just go down as a brief scare. However, the Rays’ margin for error is getting smaller and smaller, and Alex Cobb missing even one regular season start would be a big deal. The Rays’ dominant starting rotation is the biggest factor working in their favor, but “dominant” would not be the right word to describe a staff with three fill-ins.
Before we get to the positives from this game, let’s just get the rest of the negatives out of the way. For the second time this spring, a Rays catcher attempted to pick a runner off third base, and for the second time, the throw hit off the runner and allowed a run to score. In this case, a second run would have come in if not for fan interference. It would be awesome to erase a runner at third, but it sure looks like that particular set play is going to be scrapped.
Nick Franklin also had a particularly poor day, going 0 for 2 with 2 strikeouts and making an error on a routine play at short. The grounder kind of took a bad hop, but it certainly should have gotten it. Fielding percentage isn’t a great statistic and it may just be bad luck that Franklin is bunching a few errors together, but the Rays certainly want to see their potential starting shortstop looking more sure-handed in the field.
Now, to the positives. Logan Forsythe had a huge game, drilling a pair of opposite-field home runs. The wind was certainly helping him, but the Rays would love to see him hitting the ball with authority and he certainly did so in this contest. Mikie Mahtook also drilled a two-run homer while James Loney went 2 for 3 with a run scored.
On the mound, Mike Montgomery looked excellent in his first inning of work. He started with fastballs around 91-92 MPH before getting them consistently up to 93, and he showed off a few good high-70’s curveballs and a nasty changeup to strike out Freddy Galvis. In his second inning, however, Montgomery’s velocity went down, his command wasn’t as crisp, and he was overly reliant on his changeup.
Against Carlos Ruiz, Montgomery threw three changeups in a row, and the third was the worst of the bunch as Ruiz drilled a single. He lacked confidence in his fastball the entire frame and seemed to be nibbling with it when he did use it. He tried to be too fine on a 3-2 fastball to Cord Phelps as he walked him on a pitch well inside.
We have to remember, though, that this entire thing is a learning experience for Montgomery. He is not only going against big league-quality hitters, but also shifting his mindset from that of a starter to that of a reliever. He has the stuff to be effective–a fastball that could reach the mid-90’s if he stops caring as much about length, a very good changeup, and a slider that will play up in shorter stints. Now it is a matter of him being willing to be more aggressive and approach every batter like his last.
The win improves the Rays to 6-6-1 this spring–they have won five of their last six games. Tomorrow, they will head to Dunedin to take on the division-rival Toronto Blue Jays at 1:05 PM with Chris Archer on the mound. A Blue Jays broadcast will be available from MLB.com Gameday Audio.