Simulated game has Cobb ready for next start (O’s lead 9-1)

Alex Cobb hasn’t been told exactly where he’s slotted in the Orioles rotation following Thursday’s off-day. He expects to pitch in Minnesota over the weekend and could take the mound for Friday night’s series opener.

The uncertainty is beginning to feel like the norm and Cobb would prefer to ditch it. He craves a routine that’s been difficult to find, first because of the late signing last spring and a couple of interruptions due to blisters/cuts on his right middle and index fingers, followed by the groin injury late in camp this year and the lumbar strain that returned him to the injured list after an April 4 start.

Cobb had to wait until Game 2 of Saturday’s doubleheader to get back into a game, pushed back again due a rainout, and lasted only 2 2/3 innings while tying his career high with nine runs allowed in a 16-7 loss to the Twins.

Rather than throw a normal bullpen session prior to his next outing, Cobb suggested a simulated game yesterday afternoon on the Camden Yards mound. He was able to face a couple of hitters, including Rio Ruiz, and perhaps lose the residual rust that built up after the groin strain.

Cobb-Home-Opener-sidebar.jpg“I think that the (back) injury that I had was a little bit different than we were expecting, especially myself,” he said. “I thought I was going to be able to make my next start when it first happened. It was just a little quick back spasm where my back went out. I’ve had it before and it’s three or four days and it gets back to strength pretty quickly, but I don’t know if I had a little setback in the meantime, but it got really bad and before you know it I was two-plus weeks off of doing nothing. I mean, nothing. Like, not running.

“I started throwing eventually, but really not able to keep up any type of endurance or any physical activity that it takes to maintain your crispness through the season. So I went out to the game and obviously was not sharp. It was one of those feelings where you’re kind of lost out there and everything’s fast and you’re not really pinpointing the location.”

This is where Cobb harkened back to a previous method that requires only a mound and a couple of batters. Manager Brandon Hyde and pitching coach Doug Brocail watched his session and the Orioles set up a high-speed camera behind him to dissect his delivery.

“The best way that I found to get out of that is to face hitters more often and kind of get that sharpness back,” he said.

“A bullpen doesn’t really tell you too much, so you get a hitter in there and you can read some of the reactions off them and see how you’re pitches are really working. So that’s why I wanted to do that, just kind of get a little bit more of a game-like feel and I think it will benefit me, speed that process up a lot quicker to get back to game speed where I was before the injury.”

Cobb threw 35 pitches in the sim game after 10-15 warmup tosses to get ready.

“Everything felt good,” he said.

No issues with the back?

“No,” he said. “It’s all healed up now.”

What comes next is official word of his next start this weekend, the Orioles confirming only that left-hander John Means is pitching Wednesday night in the series finale against the White Sox. Cobb could start Friday, followed by Dan Straily on six days’ rest.

Cobb will be returning to Target Field, where he left a July 8 start last season in the sixth inning. Cobb chased a bunt and waited for manager Buck Showalter and athletic trainer Brian Ebel to come out of the dugout, leading to early speculation of a leg injury.

Turned out to be the blister, which cropped up after four scoreless innings.

Update: Singles by Joey Rickard and Chris Davis and a throwing error by White Sox center fielder Adam Engel gave the Orioles a 1-0 lead in the second inning and Renato Núñez hit a solo home run in the third off Iván Nova.

Update II: Davis hit a two-run homer in the third for a 4-0 lead.

Update III: Dwight Smith Jr. hit a three-run homer in the fourth for a 7-0 lead.

Update IV: Rickard’s two-run shot in the fourth gave the Orioles their fourth home run and a 9-0 lead.

Update V: Yoán Moncada led off the sixth with a triple and scored on Tim Anderson’s single to reduce the lead to 9-1. Andrew Cashner has thrown 88 pitches.

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