Myriad O's Thoughts: Cobb's collapse; near-historically bad start; an inspiring return - BaltimoreBaseball.com
Paul Folkemer

Myriad O’s Thoughts: Cobb’s collapse; near-historically bad start; an inspiring return

Photo credit: Joy R. Absalon

If Orioles right-hander Alex Cobb is still trying to find his footing this season, then Wednesday night was like slipping on a banana peel.

Coming off disastrous outings in Boston and Detroit in his first two starts, Cobb appeared to be showing signs for optimism Wednesday in his Orioles’ home debut. That is, until the fifth inning at Camden Yards.

Through four, Cobb was holding his own against his longtime teammates, the Tampa Bay Rays. Sure, he wasn’t perfect — his first pitch of the game was blistered to the left-center gap for a Denard Span double, and the Rays hit several other scorchers that found Orioles’ gloves — but Cobb was getting outs. No strikeouts, but outs.

“I felt really strongly, mechanically, from the second inning through the fourth,” Cobb said. “It’s the best I’ve felt just even throwing the ball, just feeling my hand behind the ball, the way it comes out, the angle that I’m having it come out in, the movement on the two-seam (fastball).”

And then one nightmarish frame unraveled Cobb’s progress.

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Everything he threw in the fifth inning was hit. Hard. The lead got away from Cobb quickly when the first three Rays got on base, capped by C.J. Cron’s two-run double.

Worse, Cobb wasn’t able to stop the bleeding and keep the game tied. He wasn’t able to finish the inning, getting pulled with two runners on base and two more runs in. He gave up 10 hits and five runs in 4 2/3 innings.

Cobb was visibly frustrated on the mound, and it’s hard to blame him. His first three starts with the Orioles aren’t what anyone anticipated when the club signed him to a four-year, $57 million deal March 21. Cobb has a 13.11 ERA after three starts. He hasn’t made it through the fifth inning in any of them. He’s been torched for 30 hits in just 11 2/3 innings.

Yes, Cobb has given up the same number of hits this year as the much-maligned Chris Tillman — in one fewer start than Tillman.

“He just missed with some pitches,” manager Buck Showalter said. “He’s closer. He’s going to be fine. It’s just frustrating for him, because he’s really trying to deliver something in a time of need. You know you have that type of potential there, and he’s not quite there yet. He will be.”

Cobb didn’t sign with the Orioles until late in spring training, so the Orioles expected he might need a few outings to get his feet under him. But they didn’t expect the early results to be quite this horrific.

“This whole search that I’m on, trying to get right, it’s tough,” Cobb said. “It’s tough to play behind. It’s more tough to be out there on the mound doing it. But there’s no excuses. There’s things that are off on my end.

“It’s the toughest thing I’ve had to do as a big leaguer. You just kind of feel like you’re behind and going turbo speed to try to catch back up with everybody. This is tough, but I’ve got to find a way to get it going. I know I will. It’s hard to see from the outside … but I know I have the ball and I know what I can do with it. So it’s just a matter of getting there.”

The Orioles may have made a mistake in holding Cobb out of minor league games before he joined the big club. Because the Orioles didn’t want him using minor-league balls, as required, in official games, he didn’t pitch for any affiliate, instead stretching out at extended spring training and throwing on the side at Double-A Bowie.

Cobb didn’t get much experience facing live hitters this spring before the Orioles thrust him into the rotation April 14. So far, the adjustment period has been a particularly painful one.

“I’ve just got to throw the ball,” Cobb said. “You can’t do anything to replace reps. You can try to do all the dry work, all the bullpens, all the video work, everything you want. But until you have that ball in your hand, with big league hitters staring you down, nothing will replicate that.”

Orioles’ slow start nearly makes history

The Orioles’ loss Wednesday dropped them to 6-18 through 24 games.

No matter how Thursday’s game turns out, the Orioles have clinched at least a tie for the second-worst 25-game start in team history.

Before this season, that dubious mark was held by the 2010 Orioles, who began the year 7-18. That club later reached a low-water mark of 32-73 in early August before Showalter took over as skipper and guided them to a 34-23 record the rest of the way.

Now, Showalter is on the other side of the coin. It’s his 2018 Orioles who will tie that 2010 team’s brutal start if they win Thursday, or will end up being one game worse if they lose.

The worst start in Orioles history, of course, belongs to the 1988 Orioles, who began the season with a 21-game losing streak and stood at 2-23 after 25 games.

This year’s Orioles can’t match that historic futility. But that’s probably not much consolation for a club that’s already 12 games under .500 and 12 1/2 games out of first place.

A heartwarming return

While the Orioles stumbled to another loss, a fascinating story was playing out on the other side of the diamond.

In the bottom of the sixth inning, the Rays brought in newly recalled lefty Jonny Venters for one batter. He retired Chris Davis on a groundout.

Venters was a former All-Star reliever for the Atlanta Braves, but the fact that he was back on a big league mound was nothing short of a miracle. The 33-year-old hadn’t made an MLB appearance since Oct. 5, 2012, the National League Wild Card game.

Then his career took a terrible turn.

Venters underwent an elbow ligament replacement — Tommy John surgery — the second of his career, in May 2013. He recovered poorly from the procedure and didn’t throw another pitch in a professional game before he was forced to undergo a third Tommy John in Sept. 2014.

Then, after the Rays signed him to a minor league deal in 2015, Venters again had elbow trouble and dealt with another surgical procedure — but not Tommy John — in July 2016.

Finally, a whopping 2,028 days after he last took a major league mound, Venters toed the rubber for the Rays on Wednesday.

How long had it been since Venters pitched? Well, his last appearance before this one was also the final game for Braves’ legend Chipper Jones, who has since been elected to the Hall of Fame.

According to the Rays’ press notes, 1,287 players have made their major league debuts since Venters last pitched. Only six other current Rays had debuted in the bigs at the time.

It’s been a long, grueling road back for Venters. But when he took the hill at Camden Yards on Wednesday, nothing could have felt more fulfilling.

24 Comments

24 Comments

  1. Boog Robinson Robinson

    April 26, 2018 at 7:08 am

    Ubaldo Cobb? Say it ain’t so BanMo.

    • Dan Connolly

      April 26, 2018 at 8:56 am

      Oof. Those first two words may get ya beaten in the bar.

    • Bancells Moustache

      April 26, 2018 at 8:59 am

      We should have seen it coming when he chose Matusz old number.

      Next time someone goes on about ownership being ” cheap”, explain that when Peter Angelos opens the checkbook and goes big, he ends up with Albert Belle, Chris Davis, Ubaldo Jimenez and now this.

    • jkneps63

      April 26, 2018 at 5:08 pm

      Great post! Milk through the nose humor!

  2. Dblack2508

    April 26, 2018 at 7:44 am

    The start of the season is far worse than anyone could have imagined. They have dug themselves a hole they can’t get out of. I will be one of the 8000 fans at the game tonight, I am sure I will have my choice of a parking space.

    • Dan Connolly

      April 26, 2018 at 8:56 am

      Well, that’s a positive spin. I’ll be one of a dozen in the press box. Everyone else will be feeling a draft.

  3. deqalt

    April 26, 2018 at 7:50 am

    Sadly the writing is on the wall. I’m an optimist, but clearly this season is not what we wanted. I was encouraged with the pitching staff and was thankful for the Cobb signing. I am confident that was a good sign despite these first few outings. That being said it’s time to max out on the future free agents we have. Obviously trading Manny a year ago would of been better, but I bet trading him now is worth more than July. There is a ton of talent in the low minors, a high draft pick coming in 2019. Let’s get Britton healthy to trade and trade Manny. Get a few prospects. Both Astros and Cubs took at step back to be where they are it’s our time.

    • Dan Connolly

      April 26, 2018 at 8:58 am

      Deq: I may write a full piece about his son. But July is where the biggest haul would come. Because that’s when the most competition is. In April and May teams don’t know who they are yet and most wont give up the farm. That mindset changes — or can — in July.

  4. Birdman

    April 26, 2018 at 8:27 am

    Even taking into account his lack of spring training preparation, Cobb’s Tillman-like numbers are worrisome. Hope there is not some physical issue involved … on the Manny front, definitely time to deal, gotta believe that he is more valuable to some team to rent now for 5 months, rather than 2 months at the trading deadline.

    • Dan Connolly

      April 26, 2018 at 8:59 am

      See above. What you want to do is have the most teams bidding and you aren’t going to get that until July.

  5. Creatively_19

    April 26, 2018 at 8:35 am

    I was only watching some of the game last night, so I missed the 5th inning on. I thought Cobb had some good pitches, and that’s what I’m going to take away from this. He probably shouldn’t be pitching yet if he’s not ready, but it’s not like Chris Tillman and Mike Wright made it any easier on the O’s to hold off on starting him. I’d still rather Cobb be up there getting his reps than going with the other options at the moment.

    • Dan Connolly

      April 26, 2018 at 9:01 am

      It’s also contractual. They agreed to a certain time and then he needed to be in the majors. He had to be OK with going to the minors. And no big leaguer wants to be there long.

      • ubetonit

        April 26, 2018 at 10:00 am

        More importantly, no big leaguer should want to be embarrassed by his performance as he should be now. What’s more important the creature comforts of staying in Ritz-Carltons on the road or pride of performance?

  6. Stacey

    April 26, 2018 at 8:54 am

    Those 2010 Orioles started out 2-16, which means the Orioles then went 5-2. Glass half full!

    • Dan Connolly

      April 26, 2018 at 9:01 am

      I think the glass fell off the bar.

  7. Orial

    April 26, 2018 at 8:55 am

    Sorry a pitcher of Cobb’s caliber after 3 starts AND even with a limited spring training should be up to par and ready to go.

  8. jimcarter

    April 26, 2018 at 9:32 am

    It’s sad that Buck has lost his form too. Where’s the version that once criticized his player’s socks? This edition is a cheerleader/fortune teller. “He’s going to be fine”. Your crystal ball is indicating what date? Cobb has been fortunate to pitch against the Tigers and the Rays at home. Who does he need to face to be “fine”? Cobb is suffering because he didn’t have Spring Training to prepare? Like Arietta (ERA 1.82)?

    The additional amazing tidbit regarding Venters is that he rebounded from using a minor league ball earlier this season.

  9. bickel57

    April 26, 2018 at 9:43 am

    Sometimes I think the Orioles have no clue how to handle pitchers. You need to throw in real type games against real batters before you can determine if you are ready for action. They don’t seem concerned about the minor league ball when they send pitchers on rehab assignments. Lets hope he gets it turned around soon.

  10. Jbigle1

    April 26, 2018 at 10:34 am

    The orioles scraped out 4 runs! You can get your free fries at McDonald’s! Couldn’t quite pull Off the W for all of you half priced Papa John’s lovers.

  11. PA Bird Lover

    April 26, 2018 at 11:27 am

    Cobb’s sorry start can be blamed in part on the organization. Cobb was on the market at the beginning of free agency. As usual, DD waited and waited for salary demands to fall, which never happened. Surprisingly, the O’s actually paid a premium for the guy to late for him to get in shape. They spent the money anyway, but should have made the deal before the start of ST. Just more evidence proving there is a lapse upstairs.

  12. GSISDANNO

    April 26, 2018 at 11:33 am

    This team is going nowhere. The offense is pathetic. 10 more strikeouts last night. One hit off the Tampa bullpen. Oriole hitters just go up to the plate and swing at everything. Attendance is bad and it’s going to get worse. Blow it up and start over now.

  13. Mool Tittle

    April 26, 2018 at 3:01 pm

    Hello –
    First time / long time; love this website and the mobile app. Keep up the good work.

    “the Orioles didn’t want him using minor-league balls, as required, in official games, he didn’t pitch for any affiliate, instead stretching out at extended spring training and throwing on the side at Double-A Bowie.”

    Something is amiss here, because Cobb didn’t just stretch out at extended spring training, he pitched in an actual extended spring training game against real batters (Twins prospects) in Sarasota, and they were using NY Penn League baseballs in that game. I know this because I was at that game (Trumbo also played) along with maybe two dozen other fans, and I got a foul ball (I walked fifty feet to pick it up; the section was empty) and much to my disappointment, it was not a spring training ball with the Sarasota logo, but the NY Penn League ball. Now, I did get that ball after Cobb had left the game, so it’s possible I suppose that they were using MLB baseballs while he was pitching, and switched after he left. For the record, Cobb was terrific in that game, with great action and location (i.e., down in the strike zone) on his breaking pitches, and good (but not great) velocity and location on his fastball. He did give up a few hits when he left his fastball up. Trumbo also had a good showing, hitting a few balls up the middle.

    Not to make excuses, but Cobb fell apart last night at about the same time that it started pouring, so maybe he lost his grip on his pitches?

    As for the contract, I don’t get why the Orioles felt compelled to give him four years – were they bidding against another team who only offered one or two, and Cobb would only sign with us if we gave him four?? It seems especially unbelievable after we just finished with the UJ 4-yr deal.

  14. Mau

    April 26, 2018 at 7:01 pm

    The 5-9 hitters tonight are all below the Mendoza line. Bundy is pitching. Should be interesting. Archer’s ERA should get better tonight.

    That Cobb signing must have been with the same pen that signed the Ubaldo contract. That’s a fine pen for mediocre to horrible pitchers.

  15. jkneps63

    April 26, 2018 at 9:49 pm

    12 hits, 14 base runners through 7 innings and a measly 4 runs. When you hope Davis strikes out, he GiDP…

    Jace watch: 4 PA, 1 BB, 1 HBP…

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