NEW YORK - Alex Cobb knew his finger was going to flare up today while he warming in the bullpen. It wasn’t a sudden occurrence. He didn’t have visions of a lengthy start.
The signs pointed toward an early exit and non-blistered fingers crossed.
Cobb was done after four pitches, but the bullpen covered nine innings in a 6-3 victory that gave the Orioles five victories in nine games at Yankee Stadium for their only winning record in an American League ballpark.
“I knew I wasn’t going to last very long, but I didn’t know how long, how long I could push it,” Cobb said afterward. “It ultimately cut open again, probably that fourth pitch in that first inning.”
The first season of Cobb’s four-year, $57 million deal tested him at every turn. The poor first half with a 6.41 ERA and 1.576 WHIP in 17 starts, and the post-break resurgence with a 2.56 ERA and 1.156 WHIP in 10 starts. The blister on his right index and middle fingers. The mounting losses on his record - 15 of them in 20 decisions - and the team’s slate.
Asked how he’d summarize his season, Cobb smiled and said, “I don’t really want to.”
“It hasn’t been anything that we’ve envisioned before we made the commitment to come here,” he said. “I don’t think anybody envisioned it turning out his way. You never sign up for something like this.
“We’re going to see how things go in the offseason and see what kind of team we’ll be working with next year and do our best with what we’ve got, and hopefully be able to turn this whole thing, this organization around quickly, because this isn’t where anybody wants to be.”
Cobb kept trying, refusing to be shut down and wanting to squeeze out at least one more start. The Orioles gave him 11 days of rest after his last outing. They kept a ball out of his hand for longer than usual. A light bullpen session preceded today’s game.
Four pitches - two strikes followed by two balls - and Cobb was headed to the clubhouse and Mike Wright Jr. was hustling in from the bullpen.
“I don’t think it’s anything we can hang our heads about,” Cobb said. “It’s obviously not the way we wanted to finish the year. You want to finish the year healthy on a positive note.
“It’s nothing that’s going to be career-threatening or anything like that. You feel fortunate about that. You obviously want to finish on a better note, deeper in the game, come back and be healthy for two starts, but we tried pushing it. We tried pushing it because we could. We knew that the risk wasn’t that great that we were taking, that it wasn’t going to cause any further injury.
“We pushed it to come back and get two more starts. We wouldn’t have known without trying, so we’re where we’re at. We’re in the same position we are.
“Personally, I would have liked to finish off pitching and being healthy and providing some sort of length to my outings. It’s real tough walking off the mound like that, really contributing nothing to the game, knowing that you’re leaving such a burden to the bullpen to kind of deal with. It’s tough, but we prepared for it, and I think Buck (Showalter) knew it was a real possibility it was going to happen.”
Wright walked the first three batters and allowed three runs, but he covered four innings and four other relievers handled the rest with only two hits surrendered.
“When I came in from the bullpen to start the game I was pretty concerned about that,” Cobb said. “Obviously, we knew this was a possibility that we knew was going to happen. We pushed it because it is just a blister. It’s not going to ultimately cause any injury, prolonged injury to me. I think we were pretty well covered going into it, knowing that it could be a potentially short outing for me.
“I think Buck understood that, knew that. He had a good plan in place. Obviously, for that to work, the guys had to go out there and pitch the way they’re capable of once Mike got out of that whole shell-shocked, being thrown right in the game.
“He had a little bit of trouble that first inning. He settled down and threw exactly what we needed to, and the rest of the bullpen followed suit.”
Wright also got the call after Dylan Bundy failed to record an out on May 8 against the Royals. He was ready today when the bullpen phone rang.
“I mean, usually you’re kind of aware whether or not you’re the long guy for the day,” he said. “Obviously, Alex had issues with his fingers before, so we were kind of on high alert. Once I saw somebody go out I was pretty much ready to go in the game.”
Showalter sounded an ominous tone earlier in the day, knowing that starting Cobb was a roll of the dice but also wanting to give him the opportunity. And it’s not like there are several starting candidates lined up outside his door.
“Actually, in the bullpen it was starting to heat up a little bit,” Showalter said. “He had like a 51-pitch bullpen a couple days ago, he had another one between that. We knew it had the potential to be a challenge and he wanted to give it a shot, and he got a blood blister underneath it and it was getting ready to ...
“Just unfortunate. It’s a real tribute to Alex giving it a shot. He’ll probably not pitch again.
Wright inherited the 2-2 count on Andrew McCutchen, walked him and the next two batters. All three scored, but he retired 10 of the last 11.
“First of all, I’m not making excuses for Mike, it’s one of those rules I’ve been pushing to change,” Showalter said. “Those guys should not have to warm up on the mound. Especially, I’ve had some young guys come in there. They should have to warm up in the bullpen.
“It’s not fair. It’s the only time, competitively, I think that team has an advantage. That guy has to warm up, show every pitch. A guy comes out of the bullpen, throws eight pitches and ‘Let’s go.’ It’s just something I’d like to see them change, because very seldom do those guys come in and pitch well.
“With that being said, you talk about a lot of pitching, but Mike’s outing after that kind of put everything back in order a little bit.”
Ryan Meisinger retired all six batters he faced, and Tanner Scott (three strikeouts), Cody Carroll and Mychal Givens each registered a scoreless inning. Givens earned his ninth save by retiring the side in order after throwing 24 pitches over two innings on Saturday.
“It’s tough,” Showalter said. “I wasn’t going to pitch (Paul) Fry. There were about four of them. (Miguel) Castro. I was trying to save a couple guys who could give us length because we’re also going to need a pitcher on Tuesday, and (Andrew) Cashner’s probably not going to pitch again. I know Alex isn’t.
“Trying to manage that game and also have your feet on the ground for tomorrow. It’s not like we have an off-day. We knew this stretch of games would be a challenge regardless of how many pitchers we had, so when Alex left ... But regardless if Alex had left early, or if he hadn’t pitched at all, we would have to use the same people today anyway. He took a shot at it, thought it was going to be all right. It started heating up on him in the bullpen. He wanted to start and see if it would cool down, but it didn’t.”
Second baseman Breyvic Valera won’t play again this month after fracturing his left index finger in the fifth inning while diving into home plate. He jammed his hand against catcher Gary Sánchez’s knee.
Showalter was told that Sánchez didn’t illegally block the plate.
“Yeah, we looked at it,” Showalter said. “He caught it and stepped into him, I was told. I haven’t looked at it yet. It’s unfortunate. Some people will tell you he should go feet-first, but he’s good at that. I’ve seen him do it before. It’s a big body.”
Tim Beckham homered twice, his two-run shot off A.J. Cole in the sixth tying the game. He delivered a solo shot off J.A. Happ in the second.
“Timmy, he had some success, one of our few guys who had success off of Happ,” Showalter said. “He did it again. Timmy, it’s good to see because he had been scuffling a little bit.”
Said Beckham: “It’s been a tough year for me. If you look at it number-wise, yeah, it’s been a tough year for me. I started the season banged up a little bit and I had to have surgery. It all comes with the territory. There’s no excuses and you just play the game, you take the field and you want to give it your all.
“You want to play winning baseball when you’re out there and, you know, just try to simplify things at the plate as far as taking it into next season and taking it into next spring. It’s a game of adjustments, and in a season like this, that’s what a lot of us have had to do, make adjustments and go with flow.”
DJ Stewart came off the bench and had a tie-breaking sacrifice fly and RBI double.
The fourth through seventh hitters were 9-for-17 with four doubles, three home runs, four RBIs and six runs scored.
It was rookie dress-up day for the trip to Boston, and more than half the clubhouse had to particiipate. Valera got out of it because he’s headed back to Baltimore. Josh Rogers and Luis Ortiz already had been sent home.
Here’s more from the clubhouse:
Beckham on first inning bind: “Well, you know, it’s tough, but Mike Wright came in and threw the ball well. I think he really needed that, and it gave him a lot of confidence. I don’t know who is going to start from here going out, but I think they’re confident in throwing Mike Wright now. He looked good today and he had everything working for him, so you know, that’s a positive we can take out of this situation.”
Wright on how he settled down: “Just relaxing and knowing that I needed to eat up innings. There’s only so much you can do to, like, try to find the zone, but I knew that innings needed to be covered for the bullpen, especially with Tuesday coming up. We’re not sure we have a starter. So just moving forward, we don’t have a lot of games left, but there’s still a lot of innings to cover. I was just fortunate enough to cover four.”
Wright on young guys who followed him: “Yeah, I mean, it’s great. Moving forward, that’s our future. They’re in playoff mode. There’s a huge crowd here, lots of adversity. They got a leadoff double, couple guys on and they follow through it. We ended up getting the win. That’s huge. Moving into next season, like, a game like today is what we want our future to look like.”
Wright on offense: “Everybody’s battling. You wouldn’t guess by the last three games we have 100 losses. You know, we’re working the count. J.A. Happ’s a great pitcher and our hitters made him throw over 100 pitches in five innings, and that says a lot about the guys that are in our locker room and it’s exciting moving forward.”
Wright on Orioles’ winning record in Bronx: “I mean it’s good to hear. Obviously, it’s an AL East opponent and it’s a tough crowd to come play in front of. We battled all year and hopefully we can have more of that moving forward and going into next year.”