Rays News

A Tampa Bay Rays Opening Day Without Alex Cobb

By Robbie Knopf

This was supposed to be Alex Cobb‘s year. Maybe it still will be–if he returns from his forearm tendinitis to dominate in the regular season and playoffs, Rays fans will not be complaining. On the other hand, his chances of throwing 200 innings, even counting the postseason, have been reduced to almost nothing after the latest news that he will be sidelined into May.

recentposts align=”right” thiscategory=”no”]

When Cobb and Matt Moore joined Jeremy Hellickson on the disabled list last season, David Price remained to provide length and save the Rays’ bullpen. The fact that Cobb won’t be around to make up for the absences of Moore, Drew Smyly, and Alex Colome only makes those injuries seem more foreboding. Cobb is considered the Rays’ ace and an ace is supposed to carry his team in times of need. Instead, he hit the DL himself and passed the baton to other, less qualified pitchers.

Hopefully the next few weeks can be productive for Alex Cobb. Maybe he can teach his split-change to another pitcher and add to his disciples. Perhaps he will look critically at his delivery and figure out an adjustment with the potential to improve his health moving forward. From the Rays’ standpoint, meanwhile, his eventual return gives the Rays something to look forward to.

Rays fans shouldn’t be unrealistic about what their team’s injured players will do once they return. If the Rays’ substitute starters struggle, the returns of Smyly and Colome in a few weeks will certainly help, but the pitchers can’t make up for issues scoring runs. Even so, there is something exciting about knowing that your team will keep improving as the year goes on, as Evan Longoria told Marc Topkin.

"“So I think that that thought alone is going to keep us moving forward, knowing that as the season progresses we are going to continue to get healthier and we’re going to continue to put ourselves in a better and better position to move into postseason contention.”"

If the Rays can get a few halfway-decent starts from Erasmo Ramirez and Matt Andriese, that will be enough to last until Drew Smyly and Alex Colome are ready to replace them. A few weeks later, Alex Cobb will replace either Colome or Nate Karns while Nick Franklin pushes Logan Forsythe back to a reserve role. Then, in June, Moore will come back to return the Rays’ pitching depth to gaudy levels.

The injured players won’t turn the Rays from a last-place team to a first-place team by themselves, but they certainly lower the standard of what the Rays have to do early in the year. If the Rays are .500 to begin the season, then there will be reason to say “This team is playing alright, but it is just getting started.” After all, some teams had great offseasons and others will have great trade deadlines, but will anybody’s acquisitions be better than Cobb, Smyly, Moore, Colome, and Franklin?

Alex Cobb will be absolutely furious when returns in May. He will see another year slipping away and be primed to make up for his lost time. If the Rays rotation is the best in the division at that time, he will still make it better, and if it’s struggling, he has the ability to stabilize it. While he will miss his Opening Day start this afternoon, the Rays will settle for the new beginning and the burst of adrenaline that he will give them when he finally makes his season debut.

Next: Bradin Hagens Brings Cutter-Heavy Approach To Rays