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As ‘new blood’ takes over Orioles rotation, veteran Alex Cobb’s strong start not enough in 2-1 loss to Rays

Orioles pitching coach Doug Brocail offered a prediction Friday afternoon of what was to come that evening at Oriole Park.

“I think you’re going to see an awesome pitchers duel tonight,” Brocail said.

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On the side of the Tampa Bay Rays, such a prognostication was sensible: Right-hander Tyler Glasnow struck out 13 batters when he last faced the Orioles and seemed primed for another high whiff total against a team that has scuffled offensively as of late.

The Orioles started right-hander Alex Cobb, the lone veteran standing after a wave of youth has overtaken their rotation. Cobb, less than a month from his 33rd birthday, had given up at least five runs in three of his past four starts, with a cold also disrupting his schedule. He spent that past week working on his mechanics with Brocail and bullpen coach Darren Holmes.

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But Cobb and Glasnow went toe to toe in a 2-1 Rays victory, living up to Brocail’s prediction even as the Orioles dropped their third straight game to open the five-game series. With the Philadelphia Phillies sweeping a doubleheader against the Toronto Blue Jays, the Orioles moved up to 4 1/2 games behind Toronto for the final American League playoff spot with eight games to play.

In working six innings and allowing two earned runs, Cobb lowered his ERA to 4.76 and pitched his first quality start since Sept. 4, 2018. That season ended with him battling blisters. He made only three starts last year before underdoing season-ending hip surgery. Brocail mentioned Cobb has been “battling the blister issue all year.”

“Coming off of a year last year where my health got me and I had to have two surgeries, I knew this year was going to have these types of moments where they’ve been up and down and trying to find your delivery," Cobb said. "It’s difficult, but I think the trajectory has been going up, and I’m pleased with that.”

He opened the season in a veteran rotation for the Orioles (22-30). Only John Means, who was slated to be Baltimore’s Opening Day starter before being delayed by arm fatigue, was under 30 years old. Free agents signees Wade LeBlanc and Tommy Milone and returnee Asher Wojciechowski filled out the rotation.

Since, Milone has been traded, LeBlanc has been injured and Wojciechowski has been designated for assignment, while prospects Keegan Akin, Dean Kremer and Bruce Zimmermann, along with waiver claim Jorge López, replaced them.

“I love having the new blood up here, man,” Brocail said. “It’s awesome working with them because these guys know what they’re good at, and they’re not afraid to take that to the hitter.”

Added Cobb: “We’ve seen some tremendous outings from these guys. It’s really gotten some momentum going in the starting rotation. I think a lot of guys feeding off of it, and there’s a new energy.”

As Cobb showed Friday, there remains value in experience. The Orioles are trying to build a contender in the American League East, and including Friday’s outing against his former team, Cobb has spent his whole career pitching in the division.

“He’s really the only one in our pitching staff that has actually pitched in real big games and pitching in postseason-type environments,” manager Brandon Hyde said before the game. “To have him there as a guy with some experience, a guy that’s done it before, a guy that’s had success in the big leagues, somebody for them to lean on. He’s had some really good years, and we just don’t have that type of experience in our clubhouse, especially on our pitching staff.”

It’s possible they lose that experience this offseason, with Cobb a candidate to be traded. More outings like Friday’s could improve those odds.

He got two quick outs in the first before three straight Rays reached, producing an early run. A leadoff triple off right fielder DJ Stewart’s glove in the third soon led to another when Brandon Lowe singled one batter later, but it was the last hit Cobb allowed. He retired 10 of the final 12 Rays he faced, with a pair of walks all that slowed him.

“I wasn’t sure how long he’d be able to go after the first couple innings, but to give us six really good innings, I was pleased with that," Hyde said. "He picked us up. Gave us a chance to win.”

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The Orioles batters, meanwhile, failed to capitalize on opportunities against Glasnow. In the first, Hanser Alberto reached second thanks to an infield single and wild pitch, but he ended the inning there when Glasnow struck out Stewart and Ryan Mountcastle. An Austin Hays walk sandwiched between two singles loaded the bases with no outs in the second, but Glasnow recorded two more punchouts before Cedric Mullins flew out to end the threat.

“Usually when things are going really, really well and you’re scoring a bunch of runs, that’s an inning where something crazy happens,” Hays said. “Some of these games, we’re just one swing away or one pitch away from opening the floodgates.”

They finally got to Glasnow in the fourth, when Hays led off with a home run. Glasnow responded by striking out the side. He finished with 10 strikeouts in five innings.

The Orioles were quiet against the Rays' bullpen. Pinch-hitter José Iglesias, out of the lineup for a second straight game as he deals with shin and quad injuries, flew out to the warning track in left to begin the ninth.

Hays, in his sixth game since coming off the injured list for a broken rib, was the only Oriole with multiple hits, adding a single in the sixth.

PTBNLs in Bleier, Givens trades announced

The Orioles announced that they acquired a pair of 18-year-old Dominican prospects as the players to be named in the trades that sent left-handed reliever Richard Bleier to the Miami Marlins and right-handed reliever Mychal Givens to the Colorado Rockies.

From Miami, they got infielder Isaac De León. A native of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, listed at 6 feet 2 and 170 pounds, De León hit .256/.367/.324 for the DSL Marlins in 2019, splitting his time between shortstop and third base.

In addition to infield prospects Tyler Nevin and Terrin Vavra, the Orioles acquired outfielder Mishael Deson, who hit .252/.327/.336 with 23 steals in the DSL. Defensively, he primarily played center.

Both prospects have been added to the Orioles player pool, but they won’t report to the team’s alternate training site in Bowie. Baltimore’s pool is full at 60 players, with left-hander Rob Zastryzny released to create a pool spot.

The Orioles have up to four more PTBNL to announce from this season’s trades.

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