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Tampa Bay Rays: Alex Cobb Energized to Make Season Debut

By Althea Pashman
Mar 5, 2017; Dunedin, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Alex Cobb (53) checks the runner at first in the first inning of a baseball game against the Toronto Blue Jays during spring training at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 5, 2017; Dunedin, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Alex Cobb (53) checks the runner at first in the first inning of a baseball game against the Toronto Blue Jays during spring training at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports /
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For the first time in nearly three years, Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Alex Cobb is healthy and begins his first full season following Tommy John surgery in 2015.

Over the course of his career, Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Alex Cobb has suffered numerous injuries that have curtailed his time on the mound and despite the injuries, also hearing his name associated in trade rumors.

The injuries have been significant, having missed at least six-weeks or more at various times in his career. In 2011, Cobb had season-ending surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome. He lost two months in 2013 following a line drive to his head off the bat off Eric Hosmer, sustaining a concussion. Then there was a left oblique strain in 2014 before undergoing Tommy John surgery and missing all of 2015 plus the majority of 2016.

His return in September 2016 was the beginning of a long journey back from Tommy John surgery, one that resulted in setbacks due to fatigue, poor pitching mechanics and general soreness. Yet, despite the setbacks, Cobb continued his rehab finally making it back to the mound.

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Cobb would make five starts upon his return, going 1-2 with an 8.59 ERA (22-IP, 2-ND). He allowed 22 runs (21 earned runs) on 32 hits, and of those hits, five were home runs. His line also included 16 strikeouts and seven walks. Nothing great, nothing special in those starts with one exception; it gave him the opportunity to get a head start for 2017.

Throughout spring training, Cobb would spend time working on his mechanics, getting his timing down, strengthening his arm, increasing his pitch count and of course working on his fastball, changeup and other pitches. Mostly though, his time was spent on his mechanics.

He made five spring training starts, with much better results than the five starts he made in September. His spring line was 1-1 with a 4.67 ERA (17.1-IP). He gave up nine runs (all earned) on 16 hits, two of them home runs with eleven strikeouts and five walks.

His longest outing came against the Pirates; however, he was not as his best and was lucky to walk away with a no-decision. In this game, he allowed three runs on six hits, with a walk and five strikeouts in 5.1 innings with the damage occurring three hitters into the game when former teammate John Jaso tagged him for a two-run home run.

A bit of a concern lingered over Cobb, as he was scratched as a precaution from a scheduled start due to lower-back tightness in his next to last start, but Ray’s manager Kevin Cash said he did not expect the issue to change or disrupt Cobb from making his next start or hindering his first start of the season against the Yankees.

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Cobb would conclude his spring start against the Phillies on March 31, just a few days over two years ago from the last time he faced them – March 17, 2015 the day he removed himself from the game after his elbow gave out, when he sustained the injury leading to Tommy John surgery two months later. The results of the start were far better than 2015, though he only pitched 3.2 innings (55 pitches) Cobb was happy with his time on the mound.

“That was nice to feel,” Cobb said. “Some of the pitches were exactly what I was looking for, and now it’s time to think more about those and be able to repeat those 100 times.”

Thus, here we are ready to watch Cobb toe the rubber against the New York Yankees in his first start of the 2017 season on Wednesday night. His first start in which he is healthy and almost back to where he was pre-Tommy John.

Career wise against the Yankees, Cobb is 5-3 with a 2.91 ERA (77-IP, 25-ER) in 12 career starts and will be making his first two starts of 2017 against them (next start April 10 at Yankee Stadium). He is 1-1 with a 2.63 ERA (27.1-IP, 8-ER) at Yankee Stadium.

“It’s been a long time since I’ve felt like I’ve started the season on the right foot,” Cobb said. “I’m going into it excited to see all the work I’ve put in the last couple of seasons. I’ll just try and be aggressive and throw strikes.”

Next: Jake Odorizzi Continues to be a Maddening Pitcher

Meanwhile, throughout the season Cobb will likely hear his name in trade rumors, his starts will likely be dissected not only by the Rays staff, but also by the numerous teams that will have interest in acquiring the potential free agent. However, Roy Cummings of FanRag Sports said it best: “If the Rays truly are “hell-bent’’ on competing for a playoff spot this year as president Matt Silverman suggests, their chances of doing so seem better with Cobb on board.

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