SARASOTA, Florida—Pitcher Alex Cobb had a 2019 season that he’d like to forget — three starts, a 10.95 ERA and hip surgery.
In the third season of a four-year, $57 million contract, Cobb is trying to prove that the Orioles didn’t make a mistake. In his first two seasons, he’s 5-17 with a 5.36 ERA.
“I feel great,” Cobb said on Friday. “At least for my day-to-day right now. I’m excited to see how it responds just being on my feet every day here … throwing bullpens and then obviously when we get in games and the ups and downs with innings. Right now I can’t report anything negative. It’s been great.”
Cobb threw a bullpen session on Thursday, and he’s been throwing without difficulty.
“The plan behind the whole timing of the surgery was mostly based on the ability to have a normal offseason,” Cobb said. “So everything I did was like every other previous offseason. It’s usually right around the holidays, a little bit before, you start picking up a ball and getting the arm going again. So it was the same this year.”
In the early days of spring training, Cobb says he feels as if he’ll be ready for Opening Day.
“Standing here right now, yeah,” Cobb said. “The biggest thing is going to be all of us, the coaching staff and training staff getting together and seeing how my body responds. We don’t foresee anything going on, but you’re going to have to wait and see. Those muscles are still getting stronger and still rebuilding up. I hope it will be a very smooth spring, but that’s the case for everybody in camp right now and every camp I’ve been a part of.”
The 32-year-old right-hander is eager to make up for the past two seasons.
“You sign going into that season with such high expectations, not only for yourself but for the team, and it’s been everything but that,” Cobb said. “So it has been frustrating. Sitting and watching a team from your house is one of the worst feelings you can do as a professional athlete, but it reignites you. It really does.
“There’s an energy about it, and you feel like you’re missing out. You feel like you’re away. You get this added motivation that I don’t think you can get any other way. It makes you hungry. It makes you appreciate when you are out on the field.
“You have to put all that aside of feeling like you’re not living up to expectations and doing those sorts of things and just know that you can’t fix what happened and the only way to fix it is be good going forward. That’s the only thing my vision’s on right now is to perform this upcoming season.”
Cobb missed all of 2015 and much of 2016 when he was with the Tampa Bay Rays after Tommy John surgery. He’s watched each of the Orioles’ games while he’s been sidelined.
“I think being around this game since I was a little kid, you just process everything that’s going on and your subconscious almost takes over,” he said.
“Watching the games on TV, you’re kind of playing along with what you would be doing in a situation. It’s something that I actually learned going through Tommy John was to try to keep that part of your brain sharp and don’t just get in this, almost like what I envision retirement to be like just kind of letting your mind get away from baseball. You try to stay in the mix of it as much as you can and play along with it.”
Cobb has twice been named Opening Day starter, and he wasn’t able to make either start. In 2015, his elbow began hurting just after manager Joe Maddon designated him the starter for Tampa Bay’s first game.
Last year, Orioles manager Brandon Hyde named him the Opening Day starter, but a groin injury prevented that. Cobb was able to start the home opener, and he’s not thinking about another Opening Day start.
“Oh no,” Cobb said. “I’m not going to speculate on any of that. I just want to go out and pitch and be healthy. Those personal goals, really, go out the window when you’re this far behind where you feel like you should be and you have to really just kind of take baby steps and rearrange your priorities and try to get healthy.”
If Cobb is healthy and pitches well, he could be become an attractive trade chip for a contender.
“I just want to play, I just want to pitch,” Cobb said. “I just want to get in that competitive atmosphere again and just go and compete. You don’t worry about all those little things that you do think about when things are going well.”
Guest instructors for spring training: The Orioles are adding six instructors for spring training. Former shortstop Mike Bordick, who will be with the team for all of spring training, and former pitcher Scott McGregor are already here.
They’ll be augmented by Brian Roberts, longtime Oriole second baseman and, like Bordick, a radio and TV broadcaster, and former pitcher Ben McDonald, who is also a team broadcaster.
Former first baseman and outfielder Jeff Conine, who had two iterations with the Orioles from 1999-2003 and 2006, also will be in camp as will former shortstop J.J. Hardy, who retired after the 2017 season.
Conine and Roberts will arrive on Monday. McDonald will arrive on February 23 and Hardy on March 2.