MIAMI — The ride as a big-league pitcher for Vero Beach graduate Alex Cobb has had a multitude of bumps in the road.
From a scary incident being struck by a line drive with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2013, to undergoing Tommy John Surgery two years later, Cobb has been a part of many highs at full health and lows battling nagging injuries pitching for four organizations.
At 35, the right-hander has found life as a San Francisco Giant to be his liking at the start of his second year with the club. Pitching back in the Sunshine State Wednesday against the Miami Marlins, Cobb flashed an arsenal of pitches that has him, in his mind, near the top of his game.
Striking out eight over five innings of one-run ball, Cobb's Giants defeated the Marlins 5-2 in 11 innings to give the team a much-needed victory in what has been a slow start (6-12) to the 2023 season.
"We've had a very poor start to our season and we know that," Cobb said "The way to break out of that is to try and not put too much pressure on yourself. It's not easy to do. It's easier said than done. But the battles within yourself, if you repeat your delivery 100-plus times a night, you're going to have good results. You focus on that rather than the outside variables, things you can't control and go out there with conviction and be aggressive."
The grizzled veteran
After a stellar career at Vero Beach High School where Cobb shined as the quarterback for the football team along with his work on the diamond, he forged his path through the Rays' minor-league system after being selected in the fourth round in 2006.
Making his MLB debut in 2011, Cobb had 115 starts and a 48-35 record with a 3.50 ERA in Tampa Bay over six seasons before signing a 4-year, $57 million contract with Baltimore Orioles in 2018.
A rash of injuries, the most severe a hip injury that required surgery in 2019, limited Cobb to only 41 starts in three seasons. His ERA was 5.10 with Baltimore before he was traded to the Los Angeles Angels in 2021.
In another season where minor injuries limited him, Cobb was impressive in his time on the mound. He went 8-3 with a 3.76 ERA and struck out 98 batters over 93⅓ innings, and his performance landed him a two-year deal with the Giants.
Last season, Cobb logged his most innings in a season since 2018, pitching to a 7-8 record with a 3.73 ERA and struck out 151 batters in 149⅔ innings.
Through four starts this season, Cobb is 0-1 but he has a 2.79 ERA in 19 innings and has struck out 22 against three walks. His fastball, from 94-96 miles an hour, sinker, split-changeup and curveball are his four pitches.
When reflecting upon his career, Cobb chuckled at how fast it has come and gone. He's appreciative of what he has achieved while knowing more is in store in his future.
"Just making it to the big leagues, you don't think about it too much outside of when you see someone from back home that you talk to them about it," Cobb said. "You're just in this trance and this tunnel vision setting out on a path trying to accomplish it and before you know it, you're getting asked about being in your 13th season. It just comes so quick.
"I'm very thankful for the career I've had. I've battled a lot of injuries and rebuilt my delivery multiple times. It's been more than anything I could have ever dreamt of and I think it gets lost on me every once in a while when you're in the grind of a season and trying to get outs at this level."
Plenty in the tank
From a physical standpoint, Cobb is in as good of a place as he's been pre-Tommy John Surgery with the Rays.
Even battling through knee soreness after being struck by a line drive in Spring Training on March 11, Cobb's first month of the season has been promising while building his pitch counts up.
Catcher Joey Bart has worked with Cobb the past year-plus and the 26-year old backstop raved about how fun Cobb is to catch and how much he has learned from all the experience staring back at him.
"(Cobb) is a competitor among the best, he brings it, he's got the stuff and he's got the mindset," Bart said. "I always joke with him; it seems like the older he gets, the better he gets. He can do this thing as long as he wants to do it and I'm blessed to be back there as part of that battery."
San Francisco Giants manager Gabe Kapler gave a blunt assessment of Cobb postgame Wednesday.
"Every time Cobb steps on the mound, we feel confident he's going to give us the chance to win the baseball game and he did so today," Kapler said.
As part of a San Francisco rotation that features 26-year old right-hander Logan Webb, 33-year old right-hander Anthony Desclafani and 32-year old southpaw Alex Wood, Cobb is keen on the club getting things in gear to contend with the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres in the National League West.
While pleased with how his 2023 campaign has begun, Cobb knows the work is ahead for him to continue fine-tuning his mechanics to feel he can go out each night he gets the call and battle the game's best.
"I think there's some sharpening I'll get to. I think all of the ingredients are there for me to be the best I've been in my career," Cobb said. "I just have to do a better job of locating what exactly that puts me in the best position to repeat my delivery. I think as the season goes on, I'll get better and better with that.
"Hopefully, I'll stay healthy and be able to get into a groove. I could foresee that being the case where it's the best I've ever felt on the mound in a very long time."
This article originally appeared on Treasure Coast Newspapers: Vero's Alex Cobb sharp in return to Florida against the Miami Marlins