SARASOTA, Fla.—For the first time in his career, Alex Cobb gets to be an Opening Day starter, and the announcement came just five days after Cobb’s wife gave birth to the couple’s first child, Chloe.
The 31-year-old Cobb will face the New York Yankees’ Masahiro Tanaka at Yankee Stadium on March 28.
Cobb will be the Orioles’ fourth different starter in as many years. Chris Tillman was the Opening Day starter in 2016, followed by Kevin Gausman, Dylan Bundy and now Cobb.
“Excited about that, and he was real excited,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “It’s an honor. He understands that, and he’s very, very grateful.”
It’s Hyde’s first Opening Day as a manager, too.
“Opening Day is one of 162,” Hyde said. “But it’s a special day, very special day. I’ve respected Alex for a long time. We all respect him very much for what he’s done in his career. He’s earned it. His track record speaks for itself, and we’re excited about naming him Opening Day starter.”
Cobb, who was 5-15 with a 4.90 ERA in his first season with the Orioles, was chosen ahead of Bundy and Andrew Cashner. Hyde said he hasn’t slotted pitchers for the second, third, fourth and fifth positions, nor has he chosen someone to start the home opener on April 4.
“Naming your Opening Day starter is about giving it to somebody you feel like is trustworthy and earned that,” Hyde said. “It’s a reward [for] what you’ve done.”
Hyde expects to name his starter for the Oriole Park opener in the next four or five days.
“As of right now, I want to make this about Alex,” Hyde said. “Let him get the headline of how excited we are to have him start that day.”
A year ago, Cobb wasn’t a consideration for starting the opener because he didn’t sign his four-year, $57-million contract until March 21. His late signing was a huge factor in his slow start.
“We talked a lot about last season,” Hyde said. “I know he feels more comfortable this year than he did last year, and missing a spring training, I don’t think anybody really understands what that feels like until he went through it last year. He’s looking to really bounce back from last year.”
Cobb has pitched just twice in Grapefruit League games. On March 1, he allowed four runs while recording just two outs against Tampa, and gave up a run on two hits March 5 against Pittsburgh.
Instead of facing the Yankees on Sunday, Cobb pitched in a simulated game. Hyde attributed that to his busy week rather than avoiding a team he will start against 15 days from now. Cobb is next scheduled to start Saturday against Toronto in Dunedin, Fla.
“We’re excited about how he’s throwing the ball in camp,” Hyde said. “I think it’s only going to help him having the preparation he didn’t get last year. We’re looking for big things from Alex.”
As a first-year manager, Hyde hadn’t delivered such joyous news to a player before.
“He was happy about it,” Hyde said. “We hugged…Anytime you give good news, it’s a great feeling, and to see such a great reaction from him, it’s special. Hopefully, we have a lot more of those types of conversations going forward.”
Hyde came into spring training without a set idea on his choice for Opening Day starter. Cobb’s reaction made the decision more special.
“The longer you’re in the big leagues, the more appreciation you have for special things and special moments,” Hyde said. “Opening Day is one of those special moments. It’s such an accomplishment.
“Someone like that that’s been around for a while doesn’t take that for granted. By Alex’s reaction, he didn’t take that for granted.”