Saturday, January 20, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays' Alex Cobb surprisingly wild in season debut

ST. PETERSBURG — Rays right-hander Alex Cobb has always been a picture of control — of his emotions and his pitches.

But in his first start of the season, he struggled with both in Tuesday's 4-2 loss to the Blue Jays.

Pitching to new catcher Ryan Hanigan for the first time in the regular season, Cobb appeared to work slowly and exited the game quickly. He allowed a 411-foot, three-run homer to centerfield in the first inning to DH Adam Lind.

Cobb was gone after five innings, allowing five hits, four runs with four walks, a wild pitch and only three strikeouts while snapping his eight-game winning streak at Tropicana Field.

"Pregame I felt great. I was really commanding everything," Cobb said. "My fastball and off-speed pitches, everything was working really well. Then I got to the game mound and it didn't translate in the first. I was a little timid with pitches and trying to be too fine, and you get the complete opposite when you try to do that."

It could've been worse. Cobb had runners on base every inning except a 1-2-3 third and worked out of numerous jams, including the fifth when he got catcher Dioner Navarro to ground out with runners on second and third. Cobb showed his frustration leaving the mound after 104 pitches, yelling into his glove.

The shaky start was rare for Cobb, who went 11-3 with a 2.76 ERA in 22 starts last season despite missing 50 games with a concussion after a line drive by the Royals' Eric Hosmer struck him behind the right ear.

Manager Joe Maddon said Cobb's tempo was slower than normal as he and Hanigan weren't always on the same page with pitch selection.

"It was a little bit off," Maddon said. "I think it was just him and Hanigan trying to get together for the first time in a regular-season game, there's going to be somewhat of a learning curve with Hanigan and some of our pitchers and I totally get that."

Cobb, 26, who pitched to Hanigan three times during spring training, said the chemistry with his new catcher was not a factor. "There's going to be growing pains with us," Cobb said. "The tempo wasn't anything that affected me tonight. … I didn't think that was an issue at all. I thought we worked pretty well together."

How does he bounce back?

"As hard as it is to get it out of your mind and come back and be more aggressive next outing, I think that's the biggest thing I'm going to take away from tonight. Not being aggressive from pitch No. 1," he said.

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