Orioles may move up Cobb’s 2018 debut date

April 03, 2018 | Luke Jones

Just a few days after saying Alex Cobb wouldn’t make his Orioles debut before April 14, Buck Showalter has apparently changed his tune about his new starting pitcher.

The manager is now leaving open the possibility of Cobb making his 2018 debut against Toronto on Monday if his five-inning simulated game goes well in Sarasota on Wednesday. It’s a moving target after the 30-year-old missed virtually all of spring training and didn’t sign his four-year, $57 million contract with Baltimore until March 21.

“Most of it’s going to come from what Alex is telling us,” Showalter told reporters prior to Tuesday’s game in Houston. “He’s very mature about it. It’s like I told him, regardless of how someobody else is doing it, we’re going to do what’s best for him, which is what’s best for the organization. If anything, we’ll err on the side of caution. We think we already have.”

Former Orioles and Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Jake Arrieta is in a similar position after only signing with Philadelphia on March 12 and is scheduled to make his season debut on Sunday.

Baltimore would prefer not rushing Cobb to a competitive environment before making sure he’s ready physically, but the early performance of the starting rotation hasn’t helped matters with Andrew Cashner, Kevin Gausman, and Chris Tillman all pitching poorly in their first outings of the season. Mike Wright was making his 2018 debut against the Astros on Tuesday and figures to be the odd man out of the rotation once Cobb is activated.

Showalter also confirmed top pitching prospect Hunter Harvey will begin the season at Double-A Bowie with the goal of completing three innings per outing and gradually increasing that workload as the year progresses. This leaves more innings available to him later in the season if he progresses rapidly enough to be promoted to the majors.

“That is where he is going to start so the innings are there,” Showalter told reporters in Houston. “I don’t think you’re going to see him make a seven-inning start anywhere except Baltimore.”