SARASOTA, Fla. - Alex Cobb’s final start before opening day lasted only one inning.
Cobb retired the Twins in order tonight on 13 pitches, but Jimmy Yacabonis replaced him unexpectedly to begin the second inning. The team announced that Cobb exited with right groin soreness.
Head athletic trainer Brian Ebel escorted Cobb to the clubhouse as Yacabonis trotted onto the field.
A ground ball, liner and popup completed Cobb’s work. He threw nine strikes - and a scare into the Orioles.
Cobb is supposed to pitch Thursday afternoon at Yankee Stadium, followed in the rotation by Andrew Cashner or Dylan Bundy. Manager Brandon Hyde hasn’t confirmed the order beyond Cobb, who’s beginning the second year of a four-year contract that guarantees $57 million.
Cashner is making his last exhibition start Sunday against the Pirates and Bundy pitches Monday versus the Mets.
The initial thought tonight was that Cobb had developed another blister on the index or middle finger on his right hand, issues that forced him out of games last summer, but a groin injury puts Thursday’s assignment in doubt.
Tonight was supposed to be little more than a tune-up, but it’s became much bigger. Especially for a rotation already thin enough for the Orioles to consider using an “opener” rather than a fifth starter.
The Orioles have been checking the waiver wire for possible pitching upgrades and there could be a greater sense of urgency depending on the severity of Cobb’s injury.
Cobb has allowed eight runs and nine hits in 9 2/3 innings this spring.
Cobb joins designated hitter Mark Trumbo, catcher Austin Wynns and third baseman Renato Núñez as possibilities for the injured list. Trumbo is trying to return from September knee surgery, Wynns has been sidelined by a strained left oblique and Núñez is dealing with a sore right biceps that flares up when he throws.
Yacabonis struck out two batters after replacing Cobb, but former Oriole Jonathan Schoop led off the third by reaching on an infield single - first baseman Chris Davis coming off the bag to field Yacabonis’ throw - and Jason Castro hit two-run homer to give the Twins a 2-0 lead.
They scored again in the third on Byron Buxton’s walk and stolen base and Nelson Cruz’s line drive that Trey Mancini lost in the sun for an RBI double. And on Eddie Rosario’s single that increased the lead to 4-0 and ended Yacabonis’ night.
Meanwhile, outfielder Austin Hays injured his left thumb today while sliding into a base in a minor league game and will undergo an MRI, as first reported by The Athletic.
Hays was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk after batting .351/.385/.892 with three doubles, a triple, five home runs and 13 RBIs in 12 games.
The Orioles news needs to get better and fast.
Update: Dwight Smith Jr. and Davis homered in the third inning to reduce the lead to 4-2. Davis was 4-for-30 with one home run, seven walks and 16 strikeouts before clearing the fence in left-center field.
Update II: Tanner Chleborad has given up four runs in the fourth, the last three on Max Kepler’s homer, and the Twins lead 8-2.
Update III: Chance Sisco walked in the fourth, moved up on a passed ball and scored with two outs on Schoop’s error to reduce the lead to 8-3.
Update IV: Núñez led off the sixth with his third home run of the spring to reduce the lead to 8-4 and Smith had a two-run double later in the inning.
Update V: Rio Ruiz homered in the seventh to reduce the lead to 8-7.