Rays’ right-hander Alex Cobb (11-3, 2.76) will make his post-season debut against the Indians tonight. The 25-year-old endured probably the toughest year of his career, missing two months with a concussion.
On June 15 against Kansas City, Cobb was hit by a line drive off the bat of Eric Hosmer. He was struck near his right ear and carried off the field on a stretcher.
“This guy is one of the best pitchers in either league,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said of Cobb. “His stuff to both right- and left-handed hitters is in the elite category as far as I’m concerned. Fastball, great movement, wonderful curve ball that nobody talks about that I love. Then the split-changeup thing he throws that is outrageous.
"On top of that, this is a very competitive young man. The competitive nature is in an elite category also, that’s why we’re so excited about having Alex pitch (today).”
Cobb missed 50 games from June 16-Aug. 14. Since his return, Cobb is 5-1 with a 2.41 ERA in nine starts. If he had enough innings to qualify (he totaled 143.1), Cobb would have ranked fourth in the American League in ERA and his .228 opponents’ batting average would have been sixth. He allowed three earned runs or less in 19 of his 22 starts.
“I don’t know why the numbers would be any different,” Cobb said of his post-concussion performance. “Maybe I got two extra months of rest while everybody else was grinding out the tough parts. When I was on the couch I was seeing the hot streak they were on and remembering back to 2011 when I had my surgery and watching the post-season run. Just the feeling of being left out, it’s indescribable. It’s a terrible feeling you don’t want to have again.
“I think it was extra motivation when I saw them playing well.” The Rays went 31-19 without Cobb.
“It was extra motivation to get back and fueled that fire to get back to the postseason and know we have a special group that can go far,” Cobb said.
Cobb made one appearance against the Indians this season on April 6 at Tropicana Field. He threw 7.1 shutout innings, allowing four hits, walking three and striking out six as the Rays prevailed 6-0.
“That was so long ago, I don’t know if it really applies any more,” Cobb said when asked what he remembered about the Indians.
“Plus you got hit in the head,” Maddon interjected.
“I forgot everything before that,” Cobb said, joking. “I can’t refer to that point going into (tonight). I’ll look at the last few games they played, primarily against right-handed pitchers. It’s a completely different team. They were struggling a little bit at that point.” The loss to Cobb was the Indians’ third consecutive after two season-opening victories at Toronto.
Indians manager Terry Francona remembers Cobb's starter earlier this season.
"He kind of carved us up," Francona said. "He's good. He's got three pitches that he can he can throw any time in the count. He may arguably have been their best pitcher the last couple months. We know we have our hands full."
In his career, Cobb is 2-1 with a 2.70 ERA against the Indians in three regular-season starts. He has not allowed a home run to the Tribe in 16.2 innings.
Indians pitcher Justin Masterson has been impressed with Cobb’s recovery.
“I’ve never had that, but that’s got to be one of the hardest things, to get back out there and know that fear,” Masterson said of Cobb.
In high school, Cobb served as a bat boy for the Dodgers during spring training in Vero Beach. Teammate James Loney played for the Dodgers at the time.
Cobb''s mother, nurse practitioner Lindsay Miller-Cobb, passed away at age 49 from a stroke when Alex as a senior at Vero Beach High School.