Not too long ago, Orioles manager Brandon Hyde joked that the only player to have made the Opening Day roster was Alex Cobb, by virtue of Cobb having been named the Opening Day starting pitcher. Not so fast. Cobb’s final spring training tune-up start was cut short after only an inning. The team announced that Cobb was lifted from the game for right groin soreness.
It’s not yet a sure thing that Cobb will be unable to pitch on Opening Day. If nothing else, there will probably have to be an MRI done tomorrow to make sure there’s nothing more serious than a day-to-day injury. It’s not hard to take a guess that a guy pitching just one inning in his final spring start, five days before the season begins, is not going to be the actual Opening Day starter any longer.
If Cobb is not ready to go at the beginning of the season, the rotation picture suddenly looks a lot more chaotic. And there wasn’t even any reason to be excited for the idea of Cobb as Opening Day starter! The alternatives were worse. Barring a surprise, it’s one of those alternatives that we will get.
It’s not so simple to just bump up either Andrew Cashner or Dylan Bundy to pitch on Opening Day instead, because at this point, only someone who pitched on Saturday would be on turn to start on Thursday on regular rest. Either’s final spring start could be delayed to just have them pitch next on Opening Day. Long layoffs offer their own potential pitfalls for starting pitchers getting out of a rhythm.
Perhaps for that practical reason, the Opening Day starter could just end up being, say, Jimmy Yacabonis, who relieved Cobb in Saturday’s exhibition contest against the Twins. There might not be a more fitting beginning for the 2019 season than throwing Yacabonis to the wolves right out of the gate, a sacrificial lamb on the road against the Yankees.
Cobb missing a chunk of time could give us the scenario where both David Hess and Mike Wright are in the Opening Day rotation. This is not a heartening idea to contemplate. Few things about the 2019 Orioles are, so in that sense, maybe we should all thank reality for making sure that our expectations are properly calibrated in advance of when the games start counting.