The Orioles are supposed to be in Minnesota today to start a three-game series.
They’re supposed to be putting last year’s failings behind them. In a big pile that could bury them if it toppled.
Three games against the Twins at Camden Yards produced three losses. Three games at Target Field produced three losses. All of them coming in April, with a series win against the White Sox nestled in between.
Alex Cobb made only three starts in 2019 and the last two came against the Twins before the Orioles shut him down and scheduled his hip surgery. He’d probably like another shot at them.
Cobb lasted only 2 2/3 innings in Game 2 of a doubleheader and allowed nine runs and 10 hits in a 16-7 loss. He made it through four innings in his final outing and allowed four earned runs (five total) and six hits.
Seven of the nine home runs surrendered by Cobb were manufactured by the Twins. Nelson Cruz, Eddie Rosario and C.J. Cron went back-to-back-to-back in the first inning of the April 26 game in Minnesota.
Something was wrong with Cobb, dating back to the latter portion of spring training. The soreness in his groin that cost him the opening day assignment and eventually led to his medical procedure.
Here’s where it gets weird.
Cobb’s last exhibition start came against the Twins.
He retired the side in order in the first inning of a March 23 game at Ed Smith Stadium and walked to the clubhouse with head athletic trainer Brian Ebel.
Cobb said afterward that he felt some discomfort while warming in the bullpen and it worsened as he covered first base on the first play of the inning. He described the situation as “a little bit concerning,” which later proved to be quite an understatement.
The Orioles thought it was a mild strain and waited to see whether Cobb felt better the next morning. Cobb said he’d rather be cautious than push himself to make the opening day start.
“I’ve never really had this, so I really don’t know,’’ he said. “It doesn’t hurt. I’m walking fine, but I don’t think I can make any judgement call or tell you anything more until we see how it feels tomorrow or the next day.”
Cobb went on the 10-day injured list and Andrew Casher started the season’s first game at Yankee Stadium. His 2019 debut came in the April 4 home opener against New York, when he allowed two runs in 5 2/3 innings - on solo shots by Gleyber Torres and Gary Sánchez, the names you could have predicted.
The Twins outscored the Orioles 19-4 during the series in Minnesota, after they pulled off a four-game sweep in July 2018, winning the finale 10-1 while Cobb was charged with five runs in five innings.
Cobb exited with a blister on his right index finger. Again, the Twins always seem to be inflicting pain.
Here’s where it gets weird again, as we fast-forward to two months ago.
Cobb was supposed to start against the Twins on March 12 in Fort Myers, but another blister forced Hyde to keep him back in camp. The game never materialized and spring training was halted due to the coronavirus pandemic.
If baseball is played in 2020, teams are expected to compete only within their division and versus National League clubs in the same region. Cobb won’t see the Twins before 2021, when he’s in the final year of his $57 million contract.
There’s a chance that Cobb makes himself a trade chip later this summer. We’re assuming that a deadline exists. We do know that the blister has healed.
Will the Twins stop being a pain?
They swept the Orioles in a three-game series at Camden Yards in 2017 and won the first two games in Minnesota before the Orioles rallied for the split - with Wade Miley and Ubaldo Jiménez getting the wins.
The Orioles haven’t swept the Twins in a three-game road series since September 1999. Scott Erickson tossed a three-hit shutout in the opener and Jason Johnson, Gabe Molina and B.J. Ryan combined on a shutout the following night.
Seven pitchers were used in a 6-5 win that completed the sweep: Matt Riley, Jim Corsi, Mike Fetters, Alberto Reyes, Scott Kamieniecki, Jesse Orosco and Mike Timlin. Riley lasted only 2 2/3 innings and allowed two runs with four walks.
Did you remember that Corsi pitched for the Orioles? Thirteen relief appearances to close out his major league career after signing as a free agent in July.
Derrick May pinch-hit for shortstop Jesse Garcia. May’s major league career also ended in 1999 after 26 games with the Orioles, who have been the last stop for a lot of players.
But that’s another story for another time.