BOSTON — Alex Cobb knew the Boston Red Sox would present a difficult challenge in his season debut Saturday, but the Baltimore Orioles right-hander was confident he had done everything he could over the season’s first few weeks to be ready for the American League’s most dangerous lineup.
Cobb had history on his side — a track record of success against the Red Sox and at Fenway Park — but his preparation for the season after signing with the Orioles in the final week of spring training marked uncharted territory.
But after an ugly Orioles debut in a 10-3 loss to the Red Sox, Cobb — who walked off the field with two outs in the fourth inning and was charged with eight runs, seven earned, on 11 base runners — said he felt ill-prepared to face Boston’s lineup.
It was a dubious start for Cobb, who faced nothing comparable to a big league lineup in four tuneup outings — three simulated games and an extended spring game — let alone a Red Sox batting order that has allowed few pitching mistakes to go unpunished in the first two games of this four-game series at Fenway Park.
“Not today, I didn’t [feel ready],” Cobb said. “We did all we could. There is no replicating this. This is the best team in the world, hitting right now, and you’re never going to get ready for that.”
He allowed eight runs in an outing shorter than four innings just once in 29 starts last season with the Tampa Bay Rays. So the performance was a rarity for a starting pitcher with a résumé of success in the American League East, which was among the main reasons the Orioles signed Cobb to a club-record four-year, $57 million deal March 21.
Orioles infielder Tim Beckham, who was a teammate of Cobb’s in Tampa Bay, shrugged off the outing, saying he trusts in Cobb’s track record.
“He’ll get comfortable, man,” Beckham said. “Once he gets comfortable and settled in, he’s a good pitcher.”
Cobb was among the top 10 starters in the AL last season in fewest homers allowed per nine innings (1.1, 10th). But he yielded two home runs Saturday, including a two-run blast by Hanley Ramirez over the Green Monster in left field that capped a three-run first inning. Last season, Cobb allowed multiple homers in just seven of his 29 starts.
Orioles Manager Buck Showalter didn’t know what to expect in Cobb’s debut, because he knew he would face a dramatic change from pitching in simulated games and in extended spring contests.
“I think you look at it through realistic eyes,” Showalter said. “But . . . we like the program he’s on, and he’s only going to get better.”
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