Some good has come during the pandemic for Alex Cobb and his family. The Orioles’ right-hander became a father for the second time on July 3 with the arrival of another girl, Everly.
Cobb is scheduled to pitch in an intrasquad game on Friday night. He’s in the third year of a four-year, $57 million contract. Like a number of veteran players, particularly those with young children or babies on the way, he thought about opting out of the 60-game 2020 season that’s scheduled to start July 24th.
“I’m extremely thankful we have an opportunity to play,” Cobb said in a video conference call on Thursday.
“Obviously, it was not too clear to us what we wanted to do, my wife and I with the unknowns of how it affected being pregnant and young children … Everybody was on the same page that they feel we were in a good position, that we would be OK. We made the decision together that we felt comfortable doing it.”
Cobb pitched in only three games last season because of hip and knee surgeries.
“This is a great opportunity for me personally because I missed [almost] all of last year,” Cobb said. “To get out there and get a season in, as much as we can.”
Cobb said that he’s pleased with the Orioles’ adherence to protocols, and he’s looking forward to the season.
“I think the season is going to be a really fun one to follow,” he said. “I think it’s going to be really interesting to see how the game is going to shift in the way that managers manage and players play.
“I think that’s going to create some exciting baseball. I’m looking forward to watching it and being a part of it. I really hope we’re able to get through it.”
Cobb knows he won’t have many starts in a shortened season, but after two frustrating seasons — he was 5-15 in 2018 — he’s eager to pitch.
“I was not optimistic for a lot of the time that we were going to get an opportunity to play,” Cobb said. “I think everybody just realized that this opportunity was very close to not happening, that they’re going to totally not mind dealing with some of the things that we’re going to deal with.”
Cobb said he was disappointed by the bickering between the players and the owners during a pandemic.
“I was disgusted with it, honestly,” Cobb said. “I just thought it could have been handled better on both sides.”
Preparing for Opening Day: Two weeks from now, the Orioles will open the season at Fenway Park in Boston. When spring training ended, it was exactly two weeks before the regular season was supposed to begin.
“I think once I get my outing in [Friday], I’ll have a better idea,” Cobb said of his readiness.
“We’re pretty much there, I would say. Coming in and throwing my three-inning live [batting practice] the other day was a great gauge for me because I was expecting to be struggling pretty hard the next couple of days thereafter and my body responded really well.
“We’ll see when we take that next jump and go four innings and face hitters in a game situation, how my body responds, but I think we’re pretty close to that mark of where we would like to be in spring training, two weeks away from the season.”
John Means, who is expected to be the Orioles’ starter on Opening Day, pitched five innings in an intrasquad game on Thursday night
Manager Brandon Hyde declined to name a starter when asked on Wednesday but said he’d announce his choice soon.
Shortstop José Iglesias, who had missed the past two days because of a sore back, doubled twice in the intrasquad game. After his second double, he hobbled off when replaced by pinch-runner Andrew Velazquez.
Ty Blach, Mychal Givens and Hector Velazquez, who didn’t pitch for the Orioles after he was acquired on waivers from Boston four days before spring training ended, also pitched. Shawn Armstrong, Paul Fry, Travis Lakins and Evan Phillips pitched to hitters after the five-inning game ended in a 1-1 tie.
Outfielder/first baseman Ryan Mountcastle and outfielder Mason Williams got their first at-bats of summer training. Outfielders Anthony Santander and Dwight Smith Jr. have yet to be seen.
Hyde is realistic about his team’s preparedness after 3 ½ months away.
“I think we’ve done the best we possibly can under the circumstances,” Hyde said. “I’m encouraged about the shape our pitchers are in. I don’t think you can ever, from a baserunning, position player standpoint, you can never get fully prepared without playing the game, without your spikes being in the dirt.
“You can be in great physical shape. You can have done sprints. You can do all sorts of things to stay in shape, but baseball shape, position player-wise is different … Those type of things, you need some time. I think we’re in good shape. We have two weeks to go. We’re going to utilize that time to get our legs in shape.”
Nunez at DH: Renato Nunez, who had an RBI double in Thursday’s intrasquad game, might not play much in the field because the designated hitter will be used in all inter-league games. Twenty of the 60 games will be played against the National League East, and pitchers will no longer hit.
“I’ll be ready to play whatever position they want me to play,” Nunez said. “If they want to DH, I’ll be there. If they want me to play first or third base, I’ll be ready for that, too. I feel like I’ve been working on that. I’ve been working on third base.”