The tip of his right middle finger covered by a Band-Aid, Alex Cobb said Tuesday that he didn’t know when he’d next be able to pitch for the Orioles after leaving Tuesday night’s game against the Oakland Athletics early.
Manager Buck Showalter called it a blister. Cobb said it’s more like a cut to his finger, something that would heal if he didn’t throw a ball for two weeks, but after Cobb lasted just two innings in the Orioles’ 3-2 loss to Oakland on Tuesday, the issue has officially put a halt to Cobb’s second-half surge.
“It's been kind of lingering for a while, it's always kinda lingering,” Cobb said. “It's turned into something a little bigger. Last batter of the second inning, it was really going to make me alter the way I throw the ball. That can lead to other issues so you just realize that there's no reason to push it at that point.”
Cobb retired six of the eight batters he faced in two scoreless innings, but his early departure forced the Orioles bullpen into work earlier than anticipated while putting a question mark on Cobb’s next start.
“I thought he was on his way to another good outing tonight and he was crisp, carrying a good fastball,” Cobb said. “He was really frustrated up the runway, regardless of what kind of stuff he might have been carrying and what he could have done. Alex really dug out of a hole here since July and it’s been fun to watch him get a return for how much he cares. So, hopefully during this turn here we’ll deal with it and things won’t happen like that next time and maybe it will be a little cooler and not so much humidity. We can’t change the weather if that’s what’s it, but it’s just frustrating.”
Cobb shared in those frustrations because he felt he did everything he could to prevent this. He was initially set to start Sunday’s series finale at Tampa Bay, but was pushed back. He had a light throwing session Saturday and a regular between-starts bullpen session Sunday before being cleared for Tuesday. Showalter lauded head athletic trainer Brian Ebel’s ability to keep him on the field throughout the issue.
“It's frustrating because I think we did everything we could to give me the opportunity to go out and pitch today,” Cobb said. “Extra couple days with the off days and paid real good attention to it all week. We know we did everything we could to give it a chance to go the entire game but there's really only one way to test it and that's to pitch in a game. Obviously in the second inning it wasn't going to hold up the whole time. Felt good the first inning-plus, with my stuff. Was looking forward to going out and competing. It's fun when you got a team like Oakland that are in a good chase, you like to measure up with them, see where you're at. Unfortunately, wasn't able to do it.”
Cobb looked toward trying to make his next start — he’s been dealing with the issue for most of the season, and it clearly hasn’t affected him in the second half — but also weighed the possibility of shutting it down for the season.
“Yeah, the fact that we’re in September, I don’t ever want to leave the bullpen out to dry, but the fact that we’re in September, helps with that,” Cobb said. “The other thing, the fact that it’s just a finger, it’s an issue that I’m not trying to push through like a sore elbow or sore shoulder or any muscle type of injury. You’re able to push it a little bit more. I don’t have an answer. I don’t know what it’s going to look like in the coming days or what we’re going to be dealing with. We’ll reassess it tomorrow and the goal is obviously to continue to pitch at some point this year. I just don’t know when that will be.”
Cobb has had a remarkable turnaround since a rocky first half after his late spring training signing. He entered Tuesday with a 2.67 ERA over his past 10 starts dating to July 13, and he’s held opposing hitters to a .236 batting average over that span.
“It’s probably something that’s not going to resolve itself,” Showalter said. “You know, they’re such sticklers about what you can put on that and what you can’t and staying within the rules. We gave him almost a week off, really six days off, I believe it was, and we’ll look at it again and see how it manages. Sometimes we’re able to keep it from doing it. Quite frankly a lot of it has to do with the weather and some of it has to do with, he caught a seam on, I don’t know if it was a breaking ball or a split he thought that just popped it and tore it. He can bleed and he’s fine. It’s just what you may end up causing. Do I think he’ll pitch again? Yes. But it could be in five days. Who knows? Brian and his group and Alex have done a great job of managing it for probably two-thirds of the year, so we’ll see.”