Orioles reporter Eduardo A. Encina discusses the Orioles' 10-6 loss to the Astros. (Eduardo A. Encina, Baltimore Sun video)
HOUSTON — It appears likely right-hander Alex Cobb will join the Orioles starting rotation early next week — most likely Monday night at home against the Toronto Blue Jays — after his five-inning simulated game Wednesday in Sarasota, Fla.
The Orioles have wavered about whether Cobb will need to pitch a five- or six-inning outing before he’s deemed stretched out enough to appear in a major league game, but manager Buck Showalter indicated Monday that it’s possible Cobb’s final tuneup will be Wednesday. A final decision won’t come until Saturday after Cobb’s next workday.
“Most of it is going to come from what Alex is telling us,” Showalter said. “He’s very mature about it. It’s like I told him, regardless of how someone else is doing it, we’re going to do what’s best for him, which is what’s best for the organization. If anything, we’ll err on the side of caution. I think we already have.”
The Orioles could use Cobb’s help. They entered Tuesday night’s game in Houston reeling from three straight starts of five innings or less.
Showalter said he spent some of Tuesday watching video of Cobb’s last sim game Saturday.
“He’s veteran enough,” Showalter said. “He’s pitched enough innings. I watched his last outing. We got it in hand 10 minutes after it’s over. We’re real fortunate to have [pitching rehabilitation coordinator] Scott [McGregor] down there and he handles everything. We get the ‘Film at 11’ five minutes [after the game].”
If the Orioles decide Cobb does need a six-inning start, he would do that in an extended spring training game Monday against the Minnesota Twins at Ed Smith Stadium, then would start for the Orioles on April 14 at the Boston Red Sox.
If he needs the Monday game to get ready, Cobb has been approved to use major league baseballs. He would be on the Double-A Bowie roster but doesn’t need to pitch for the club that night, Showalter said.
The plan for Tanner Scott
Showalter said he had a discussion with farm director Brian Graham, major league pitching coach Roger McDowell and bullpen coach Alan Mills about the path to take with hard-throwing left-handed reliever Tanner Scott.
He said Scott — who was mostly limited to two- to three-inning starts last season at Bowie so he could work on his secondary pitches, refine his control and benefit from between-start workdays — would likely be used in a bullpen role at Triple-A Norfolk to start to year to better equip him for how he would potentially be used at the major league level.
“Our hope with Tanner is that he pitches a relief pitcher, that he finishes an inning and comes in [to games in relief],” Showalter said. “As these guys get closer to the big leagues, you want to simulate more of what they’re going to do.”
Despite the Orioles’ moves to address their starting pitching problems during spring training, the past few days served as a reminder that there are still many unanswered questions in terms of this team’s rotation. Those questions could dictate how the Orioles line up the rest of their pitching.
Even though Colby Rasmus arrived at Minute Maid Park as an opposing player Monday, the Orioles outfielder received a warm reception from the sellout Astros crowd on hand for the team’s World Series championship banner unveiling.
“I had thoughts that maybe I’d get a good welcome but I didn’t put too much thought in it up or down either way,” Rasmus said “I just was excited to be here, excited to play in an Opening Day game here and see the ... love the team was getting for the success they had. … I’m super thankful for the way they treated me like that did.”
Rasmus played for Houston in 2015 and ’16, and even though he didn’t see the fruits of his labor with a title, he felt proud to be a part of an eventual championship team. He was happy for his former teammates and Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow, who drafted Rasmus in the first round in 2005 when he was scouting director with the St. Louis Cardinals and later recruited Rasmus to Houston.
“I wanted to enjoy it, soak it up,” Rasmus said. “It was pretty cool to be here for Opening Day, a packed house. It reminded me of the playoffs and the good run that we had. … I think the fans could tell that I played hard and I did the best that I could with my time here.”