CLEARWATER, Florida—Alex Cobb wasn’t focused on his surgically repaired hip in his first spring training start. That’s because he was feeling ill and just wanted to get through an inning.
Cobb, who had hip and knee surgery last year and had not pitched competitively in nearly 10 months, was scheduled to pitch two innings in a Grapefruit League game against the Philadelphia Phillies on Monday.
Instead, Cobb, whose velocity touched 92 and 93 mph, threw only 18 pitches in the first inning when he faced four batters, and allowed a hit.
“I just feel dehydrated and dizzy and stuff, so I figured it was stupid to keep pitching and risk anything,” Cobb said. “I just didn’t feel very good today.”
The Orioles need a healthy Cobb, who is entering the third year of a four-year, $57 million contract.
In his first season with the Orioles, Cobb was 5-15 with a 4.90 ERA and was shut down early because of blisters. In 2019, he made only three starts, none after April 26. His ERA was 10.95 and nine home runs were hit against him in just 12 1/3 innings.
“He’s one of our only established starting pitchers that has had a really nice career up to this point,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “Hopefully, he breaks with us when the season starts.”
Cobb said he hadn’t been feeling well for several days. The Orioles have had a number of players who have lost time because of illness — Pedro Severino, Trey Mancini, Chris Davis, Mychal Givens and Hunter Harvey.
“I’d rather have been just sick, really sick for two days and then gotten over it instead of lingering for four or five days,” Cobb said. “I was contemplating whether to pitch or not, but I wanted to get some experience on the field to build off that.”
Hyde was OK with Cobb making the start.
“He wanted to get out there,” Hyde said. “He thought he felt OK to pitch, and I think in a normal situation, he would have stayed out there, but we just pulled him out because he wasn’t feeling 100 percent.”
Cobb thinks game preparation is important, even if he didn’t pitch for as long as he wanted.
“I put a lot of work in,” Cobb said. “There’s a lot to build off there, game experience, and I’m not throwing it away.”
Cobb said he located his pitches where he wanted.
“I’ve heard a couple of pitchers talking about how they work on their stuff over location early on,” Cobb said. “I think that’s a good way to think about it. I’d like to have thrown more curveballs over the plate, but otherwise I was happy in throwing changeups.”
The inning in the stat line looks good, but Cobb just wanted to get some rest.
“I wish I could focus a little more on that, but you know when you’re sick, you kind of just, out of body, kind of going through the motions,” he said.
Akin tries to make his case: Keegan Akin, who’d like to be in the rotation at the end of camp, made his first spring appearance, pitching two innings and allowing a three-run home run to Mike Mahtook in the Orioles’ 8-7 loss to the Phillies before 4,718 at Spectrum Field.
Akin gave up four hits and struck out two.
“I was impressed with his stuff,” Hyde said. “He just made a bad pitch, a slider, breaking pitch that he kind of golfed out. I like the tempo. I think he’s going to throw strikes. I think he’s got an ability to change speeds. His first outing in big league camp, and he got beat by a three-run homer. I thought he was OK.”
Even though the Orioles needed starting pitching last season, the decision was made to keep Akin at Triple-A Norfolk, where he had a 4.73 ERA and a 6-7 record. Akin walked five batters per nine innings.
“Last year was more of a mindset type of thing,” Akin said. “Obviously, working on some pitches, doing some stuff I haven’t done before, experimenting with that. Not to make excuses, but I think that had a little bit of impact on it. For the most part, I walked way too many people.
“I think that’s more of a mindset. I have to attack hitters more and try and get myself out of those counts, three-ball counts, that’s the biggest key.”
It appears Akin will begin the season at Norfolk to work on his control, but he thinks he’ll have a chance to make the team.
“I would hope so,” he said. “I think everybody in here’s got a chance to make the club. It’s kind of the point of having all these guys in here, to get some competition going. I feel like if you don’t have that mindset, and you’re in this room, then I think you’re probably in the wrong spot.”
Hyde hadn’t seen Akin in a game until Monday. He’ll get his first look at Bruce Zimmermann when he starts Wednesday against Atlanta. Zac Lowther and Alex Wells also will get chances.
“They’re all going to get the opportunity, and hopefully they all run with it,” Hyde said.