SARASOTA, Fla. - Alex Cobb greeted a visitor to his locker yesterday morning with an elbow tap instead of a handshake to lessen the chance of spreading germs. He joked about pulling the hood of his sweatshirt so far over his head that it would cover his face.
Cobb has been checked for the flu because he’s felt a bit under the weather and the clubhouse is beginning to resemble a carpeted Petri dish. But he expects to be on the mound this afternoon against the Phillies in Clearwater.
“As of right now, I’m totally starting,” he said, “but it’s been three or four days where I’ve just kind of felt lethargic and (yesterday) I woke up with body aches, so ...”
It’s only an exhibition game, but Cobb hasn’t faced an opponent since April 26 in Minnesota. He began the season on the injured list with right groin soreness - robbing him of his first career opening day start - and returned to it after three outings with a lumbar strain.
The eventual solution was hip surgery in June and a long rehab process that finally led to a bullpen session last month in minicamp.
“I feel good,” he said. “There’s some things we’re working on, so I’m more prioritizing stuff over location right now. I think once the games start, you try to work that way and then back.
“I know being away from the mound for a year, probably the tougher challenge is going to be getting that location down to where I feel really comfortable with it. But there’s things I’m working on that could really benefit me going forward in my career, so it’s been fun to work on those.”
This is as close as Cobb’s gotten to sounding enthused about his progress and outlook on the 2020 season, his third since signing a four-year, $57 million contract. The veteran right-hander has been guarded while media keeps checking on his health and trying to pull more emotion out of him.
“Overall, I feel good, I feel healthy,” he said. “Really don’t notice anything with my hip or knee in the games. Arm feels great, fresh. I took a nice break. So it’s not March yet, but I’ve been very happy and thankful for the way I feel right now.”
Cobb is emptying the bag when he throws.
“Everything,” he said.
“There’s some pitches that I would like to start trying to tinker with later on once I zero in.”
The curveball with its 12-to-6 movement was sharp Friday morning. Manager Brandon Hyde singled it out while praising Cobb.
“I feel like it’s always been a pitch that’s kind of been there for me,” Cobb said. “It plays well in a lot of instances, so I think there’s some emphasis on throwing that a little bit more maybe this year.
“It’s always a pitch that comes in early in camp and then it leaves for a week or two and then it comes back. It’s just the way it’s always been. I don’t understand why, but the first few you get right away and then you lose the feel for it. But it’s feeling good right now.”
So is the pitcher throwing it, which is major news in an Orioles camp that’s lacking - the occasional waiver claim having to suffice.
Cobb is enjoying a normal spring training. Nothing unusual with his physical status or his preparation.
“I feel like every spring you’ve got this wide view of where your mechanics should be,” Cobb said, “and as time goes on in spring it starts funneling down this tube and you get a more narrow idea of where you should be and it starts falling into place.”