The composition of the Orioles starting rotation has been one of the big questions throughout spring training. On Wednesday morning, they set one name in stone, as manager Brandon Hyde told O’s reporters that Alex Cobb has been named the Opening Day starter.
For the Orioles, this will make the third different Opening Day starter in as many seasons. Kevin Gausman pitched first in 2016, while Dylan Bundy drew the first game last year. The fact that Bundy, the longest-tenured Oriole of the bunch competing for jobs this year, didn’t automatically get the job is one more little sign that there are new people in charge.
Cobb has had a brief layoff from exhibition action due to his wife recently giving birth. His most recent pitching was in a simulated game, though he’s expected to return to Grapefruit League pitching on Saturday.
Hyde on the move to make Cobb the Opening Day starter:
"For me Opening Day is one of 162 but it’s a very special day," Brandon Hyde says. "I’ve respected Alex for a long time. We feel like he’s earned it. His track record speaks for himself."— Joe Trezza (@JoeTrezz) March 13, 2019
Cobb’s track record had a lot to do with why the Dan Duquette Orioles signed him in the first place, though that didn’t show up much in his 2018 results, when Cobb pitched to a 4.90 ERA. His strikeout rate is down significantly from the peak years that ended in 2014, and it may just be that the newer version of Cobb has a harder time finding MLB success.
Even that tough ERA was better than either Bundy or Andrew Cashner managed last year. Hopefully Cobb can bounce back nicely under this new regime in the regular season. This will probably be a bad season for the team, but that doesn’t mean it has to be bad for every individual player.
For Cobb, this will be his first time actually making the start on Opening Day. The last time he was named Opening Day starter in 2015 with the Rays, Cobb began the season on the disabled list and ultimately missed the entire season due to Tommy John surgery.
The rest of the rotation has not been solidified yet. We can presume that Bundy and Cashner, in some order, will follow Cobb in the rotation, barring an unfortunate injury late in camp. There’s been an assumption that the #4 starter will be Mike Wright Jr. based on his spring performance to date, though a lot of that was against the Pirates, and he struggled facing real Yankees hitters last night. The O’s may be able to avoid settling on a fifth starter for the first ten or so games.