How does the rotation stack up after Cobb?

Yesterday morning, the Baltimore Orioles announced Alex Cobb would get the nod on Opening Day, kicking off their 2019 season in the Bronx against the New York Yankees. Cobb’s 2018 season is one to put in the very back of your mind and never speak of again, however, speak of it I must as the stage is set for him to lead the rotation this season.

It’s always beneficial to point out the positives from a lost season, especially after Cobb posted a record of 2-and-8, with a 7.23 ERA in his first 11 starts. After signing with the Orioles on March 21, 2018, Cobb had a handful of positives that are worth mentioning, including the 15 quality starts that were tied with Dylan Bundy for the most among all starting pitchers. That includes eight quality outings in his last 12, with a two-run complete game effort on August 18 in Cleveland.

Cobb also ranked third on the team with 102 strikeouts, which just happens to be his lowest total since 2012 – not counting the 2016 season where he had five starts, recovering from Tommy John surgery. He didn’t make his season debut until September 2 that year, but he pitched five innings, holding the Toronto Blue Jays to two runs while striking out seven batters.

Then, there was his final 11 appearances last season, when he started ten games and pitched to a 2.56 ERA over 59.2 innings. During that stretch, he also held opposing hitters to a .232 batting average. He dropped his season overall ERA from 6.17 to 4.90 in by allowing just 17 earned runs and finished fourth lowest in ERA among all starters.

He’s started just two games this spring, allowing five runs over three-and-two-thirds of an inning however, he’ll get a few more innings in on Saturday when the Orioles travel to Dunedin to face the Blue Jays. He spoke with MASN’s Roch Kubatko regarding the selection of Opening Day starter. “I’ve been to a few spring trainings in my day, so I can map out what the schedule looks like from early on. That’s the only prelude. I saw that the schedule lined up that way. I don’t think I did anything that separated myself too much from on the field last year or anything along those lines.”

So, now that we know Cobb takes the ball on March 28, who could follow him as the Orioles close out their first series at Yankee Stadium and head to Toronto? The obvious choices behind Cobb are Bundy and Andrew Cashner, but who follows and in what order?

Mike Wright is having an outstanding Grapefruit League run in terms of keeping his opponent off the board. He’s allowed just two earned runs over 12.2 innings in his five appearances and four starts, with the only blip coming on Tuesday night in Tampa, allowing a two-run home run to New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge.

David Hess could be the team’s fifth starter, once they actually need one. With two days off in the season’s first nine days, the Orioles won’t actually need a fifth starter until they’re in the midst of their first homestand, taking on the Oakland Athletics on April 11.

Hess has pitched well during his four outings this spring, including two starts. He’s allowed just four earned runs over 10.1 innings pitched and has a 1.068 WHIP against the 41 batters that have faced him. His final nine starts of the 2018 season saw him pitch to a 3.24 ERA over 50 innings, striking out 40 and walking just 16. There really aren’t any other candidates separating themselves from the pack as Opening Day creeps closer-and-closer.

Josh Rogers may still have some considerations as the number five starter and he could see another outing over the next few days. After three straight appearances without allowing a run, he’s now given up three earned runs over his last five-and-two-thirds innings, surrendering seven hits and walking two, while striking out five.

While the candidates are still vying for their own respective spots in the rotation, Manager Brandon Hyde isn’t ready to pencil in the remaining four slots just yet. Speaking with Kubatko, Hyde said, “Naming your opening day starter is about giving it to somebody you feel has earned it. It’s a reward of what you’ve done, so we’re still working on two through five.”

As Hyde told Kubatko, expect decisions to be made about the remaining slots in the rotation, “in the next, I’d say, four or five days.”

Brian Pinter

Brian Pinter is the Director of Coverage on the Baltimore Orioles for Maryland Sports Blog. His views and opinions are that of his own and he welcomes any and all discussions. Follow along with Brian Pinter this season on Twitter, @b_pinter23.

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