AL East Beat: April 17th
Alex Cobb got a very late start on spring training and it showed in his Orioles’ debut last Saturday.
The right-handed lasted just 3 2/3 innings in a 10-3 loss to the Red Sox at Fenway Park. He was tagged for eight runs (seven earned) and 10 hits while walking one.
It also marked just the third time in 116 career starts that the seven-year veteran did not record a strikeout.
The game time temperature was 48 degrees but with a 15-mph wind.
“A little rusty,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter told reporters. “He had like four to five (bullpens), four outings (before Saturday’s start]. Physically he’s in good shape, he’s only going to get better. Tough conditions and a really good hitting club swinging the bat well right now.”
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Cobb signed his four-year, $57-million free-agent contract March 21, just a week before the end of spring training. He was 48-36 with a 3.57 ERA in his career with the Tampa Bay Rays, who selected him in the fourth round of the 2006 amateur draft following his senior season of high school baseball in Vero Beach, Fla.
Cobb threw 79 pitches against the Red Sox, just 49 for strikes.
“That lineup is red hot and they were teeing off on some bad pitches,” Cobb said. “It’s a combination of those two things. In preparation to get ready for the big-league level, you can’t until you get out there. I’ve been around long enough to know what I was going to expect out there and what I was going to be faced with. I just didn’t come through today on my end.”
Cobb is scheduled to pitch again Friday night against the Cleveland Indians in the opener of a four-game series and 10-game homestand at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
Cobb missed the entire 2015 season and was limited to five starts in 2016 after undergoing Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery. He then pitched a career-high 179 1/3 innings last season, compiling a 12-10 record and 3.66 ERA in 29 starts.
A scout covers the AL East feel Cobb could turn out to be a good investment for the Orioles, though he isn’t ready to say that with 100 percent certainty.
“I liked how he was able to hold up physically all year last year,” the scout said. “He still has the good control, but his splitter hasn’t come all the way back. He needs that pitch to be good. It’s his put-away pitch. If he can regain the bite on the split, then he’ll help the Orioles a lot.”
Boston Red Sox
Emotions run high anytime the Red Sox play the New York Yankees because it is the most-hyped rivalry in baseball. Yet it will be interesting to see what happens the next time the teams play May 8-10 for a three-game series at Yankee Stadium.
Things got heated last week when the Red Sox took two of three from the Yankees in Boston. The Yankees’ Tyler Austin charged the mound last Wednesday when hit by a pitch from Red Sox reliever Joe Kelly in the eighth inning of New York’s 10-7 victory. That triggered a benches-clearing incident.
Tempers had flared in the third inning when Austin slid into Red Sox second baseman Brock Holt spikes high at second base in the third inning on a force out at second base.
Yet the most interesting part of the dustup was a contentious exchange between Red Sox manager and Yankees third base coach Phil Nevin, who were both fined by their actions. Nevin was among those ejected along with Kelly, Austin and Yankees reliever Tommy Kahnle.
Cora appeared to tell Nevin, “Get in your box,” moving his fingers in the shape of the third-base coaching box.
That gesture enraged Nevin. Cora was upset by Nevin’s reaction.
“After the whole thing, he was screaming at our dugout,” Cora told reporters. “I don’t know if he was screaming specifically at me, and I took exception. I don’t want to say I overreacted, but that’s not me.
“There’s something about chain of command. If we’re going to let everybody be screaming in situations like that, it wasn’t a good situation in the beginning, and it can be worse.”
New York Yankees
Third baseman Brandon Drury began taking part in baseball activities Monday for the first time since being placed on the disabled list April 7 because of severe migraines.
Somewhat surprisingly, Drury admitted that he has played in major league games with blurred vision caused by the migraines at various times during his four-year career.
“I think it’s remarkable that he’s been the player he’s been, dealing with that off and on,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone told reporters. “Maybe this explains why he hasn’t been an even better player to this point in his career. Hopefully, we’re getting those answers that we can get rid of this as an issue and maybe it allows him to really take off as a player.”
Acquired from the Arizona Diamondbacks in a trade early in spring training, Drury is 5-for-23 (.217) with a home run in eight games. He is a career .270/.319/.447 hitter in 297 games with 32 homers.
Drury is taking anti-inflammatory medication to combat the migraines. Though the issues have no yet subsided, he is optimistic.
“I’m actually excited to figure out what’s going on,” Drury said. “I’ve been dealing with this for a while, and I want nothing more than to go out there and play baseball with a clear vision and a clear head. We should know here in the next week if it’s helping or not. It’s not going to happen overnight.”
Tampa Bay Rays
It’s another year and another surgery for center fielder Kevin Kiermaier.
The two-time Gold Glove winner tore a ligament in his right thumb Sunday while sliding headfirst into second baseman in a 10-4 loss to the visiting Philadelphia Phillies. He is expected to be out from 2-3 months.
Kiermaier broke his left wrist in 2016 while diving for a ball. Last season, he fractured his right hip while sliding feetfirst into first base.
“For this to happen, third consecutive year, another freak type of injury, it’s hard to put into words,” Kiermaier told reporters. “I’m shocked, surprised. Sometimes it doesn’t feel real just because this has to be some kind of sick joke.”
Mallex Smith has been shifted to center field from left field. Johnny Field will see the majority of playing time in left. He was called up from Class AAA Durham and made his major league debut Saturday.
Kiermaier is hitting .163/.250/.233 in 12 games, one of many Rays struggling during the team’s 4-12 start.
“We’re going to do things to stay positive, continue working,” manager Kevin Cash said. “We know we’re in a rough patch. KK going down doesn’t help us get out of it. We’ve got to rally around that and pick each other up.”
Toronto Blue Jays
General manager Ross Atkins made improving the infield depth a top priority over the winter after second baseman Devon Travis and shortstop Troy Tulowitzki missed significant time last season because of injuries.
The moves are already paying off as the Blue Jays are missing the left side of the infield. Third baseman Josh Donaldson was placed on the disabled list last Friday with shoulder inflammation and Tulowitzki is expected to be sidelined at least through the end of May after undergoing surgery to remove bone spurs from both ankles.
Diaz has a team-high four home runs in 12 games as the fill-in shortstop while hitting .237/.256/.605. Solarte, who will see most of the action at third while Donaldson builds arm strength, has a .286/.423/.500 line with two homers in 12 games.
“We knew we were going to need a shortstop because of Tulo’s situation and we were confident Diaz could help us,” manager John Gibbons said. “We were really happy to get Solarte but we were a little concerned about how we would get him enough at-bats. That hasn’t been a problem so far.”
They have played their part in the Blue Jays getting off to a 9-5 start. During an injury-riddled 2017, Toronto lost 11 of its first 13 games and never recovered after making consecutive appearances in the American League Championship Series.
“We know we have a good team,” left fielder Steve Pearce said. “As important as those guys are, we have the type of talent that can withstand injuries.”
John Perrotto has been a professional sports writer since 1982 and has covered a multitude of sports, including MLB, NFL and college football and basketball. He has been a member of the Baseball Writers' Association since 1988, a Hall of Fame voter since 1997 and has covered 21 World Series and two Super Bowls. He is a graduate of Geneva College, the birthplace of college basketball, and lives in Beaver Falls, Pa., the hometown of Joe Willie Namath.
He also writes The Perrotto Report (theperrottoreport.com), newsletters that concentrate on Major League Baseball and the Pittsburgh Pirates.