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Orioles' Alex Cobb seeking feeling over final results as club's losing season drags on

Starting pitcher Alex Cobb can’t change much about the 13 losses to his name, nor the Orioles’ 29-73 record — both league worsts — as the end of July approaches.

What he can do is make sure his future contributions are better than what he’s offered so far in the first season of his four-year deal inked in late March. The team’s terrible start makes that possible.

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“I think that having the ability to work on myself and get better is a really nice opportunity to have, and everybody should really take it and do whatever it takes to get better,” Cobb said. “I know everybody’s in a different situation in their career, but when you have opportunities to fail out there without costing the season, a lost season, you need to take it and run with it, because they don’t come often in the big leagues. You’re always trying to compete and win ballgames. I don’t like to say that. It’s almost like extended spring training, but it is a time to get better for everybody.”

Even though most of Zach Britton’s season was focused on his recovery from a ruptured Achilles tendon, he also served as a mentor in the Orioles bullpen.

For Cobb, what that looks like is simple. He’s been battling his delivery and thus battling for consistency since he made his hurried debut April 14 in Boston. Considering he allowed 17 earned runs in 11 2/3 April innings with opponents batting .484 against him, there was ample evidence that his hurried start to the season affected him.

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The results have improved some. He has a 5.23 ERA since and a 6.17 ERA for the season, with a chance to drag it below six Thursday night against his former team, the Tampa Bay Rays.

Cobb won’t go as far as saying the results don’t matter, but he’s looking for more of a feeling than a final product as the season winds down. He’s seen plenty of improvement with his changeup, a pitch he essentially shelved after Tommy John surgery in May 2015 and has started to throw with increasing confidence.

But command of that pitch, and comfort with both his fastball and curveball, come from sound mechanics. And that’s what Cobb is trying to find, even this late in the season.

The final step, he said, is “the consistency of it, the crispness of all the pitches.

“I’ve been having it from time to time, game-to-game, and understanding the general reason why, but not the specific, perfect point of my delivery, points that you think of to get to that make it that consistent, pitch-to-pitch, day-to-day, just there,” Cobb said. “Also, creating that muscle memory, that habit, with your body just instinctually getting to those points. I think that’s the next part to come, because I feel like I’ve been getting to a good point where I’ve been looking to get to. The pitches have been there, so I just need to make sure I’m able to get it to become the absolute.

“What I need to do is when I do throw it on a mistake, it’s not a pitch that hurts me. It’s a great pitch, then it becomes a decent pitch, rather than being a decent pitch that becomes a really bad pitch. Once you have that, the confidence grows in it. The aggressiveness goes in it, and you’re able go have that sense of competitiveness on the mound, rather than hoping-and-wishing type of feel.”

All that will benefit the Orioles as they try and build back toward fielding a competitive team, with Cobb under contract for three more years. The sooner he gets to that feeling, the sooner he can contribute to a turnaround.

“That’s going to be getting into the offseason, doing what I was just talking about,” Cobb said. “Hopefully sooner than later, not at some point down the road in the offseason where I’m hoping that next spring I’m getting to that feeling. I need to get to that feeling now and feel it over and over and over again and feel it that way when I’m in the offseason, I can run those dry mechanics, dry throws through my mind over and over again and create that habit that I’ve been trying to get to.

“I’m happy with where I’m at in terms of that. Obviously, the numbers and the overall team aspect of it has been extremely disappointing on all fronts, but there’s always areas to look to find positives in.”

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