Alex Cobb hopes to justify Orioles’ huge investment in him

MLB
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SARASOTA, Fla. (AP)This is not the kind of start Alex Cobb envisioned when he signed a four-year, $57 million contract with Baltimore Orioles during the latter stages of spring training in 2018.

That first year was awful for the Orioles and not a very good one for Cobb, either, who struggled to a 5-15 record and a 4.90 ERA while the team lost a franchise-record 115 games.

Last season was even worse for the 32-year-old right-hander. He made only three starts for the Orioles before he needed season-ending hip surgery, winding up 0-2 with a 10.95 ERA. He also had a knee procedure.

Halfway into the contract, Cobb and his teammate first baseman Chris Davis, who still has three years left on his seven-year, $161 million deal, are by far the two highest-paid players on the Orioles, and the only two players for whom money is guaranteed beyond this season.

”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.”

Baltimore desperately needs Cobb to be healthy. Entering the season, only John Means, who finished second in the American League Rookie of the Year voting, and Cobb are accomplished major league starters.

The Orioles have many candidates to fill out the rotation including right-handers Asher Wojciechowski, Kohl Stewart, Rule 5 draft choices Brandon Bailey and Michael Rucker and non-roster left-handers Wade LeBlanc and Tommy Milone, who signed Friday.

Baltimore manager Brandon Hyde, in his second season with the team, is eager to see an effective Cobb

”He had a tough year last year, but he’s recovering great,” Hyde said. Our goal is to keep him healthy all season.”

Cobb was one of the top free agent pitchers following the 2017 season. He was 48-35 with a 3.50 ERA in six seasons with Tampa Bay.

In 2015, Rays manager Joe Maddon selected Cobb as the team’s opening day pitcher. But days later, Cobb’s elbow began bothering him, and he needed Tommy John surgery, costing him not only that season, but much of 2016, too.

Last March, Hyde chose Cobb to be the Orioles’ starter on opening day, but a groin injury prevented him from pitching that day.

Cobb doesn’t want to think about getting the ball for the March 26 opener at home against the New York Yankees.

”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.”

NOTES: C Pedro Severino and RHPs Mychal Givens and Hunter Harvey have been sidelined because of illness. Hyde said all three are getting better. … Position players are due to report on Sunday. Most are already in camp, but Davis has not yet reported.

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