Cobb finishes season strong in place of Rodón

October 5th, 2022

SAN DIEGO -- The Giants were forced to shuffle their pitching plans after left-hander was ruled out for the remainder of the regular season, but they found an eager replacement in veteran , who volunteered to pitch on short rest on Tuesday night.

“The reason we’re moving Cobb up is because he’s excited about pitching today for us,” manager Gabe Kapler said before the game. “I think he has an inclination that this is a good day for him to start and we’re very, very comfortable with that.”

Cobb took the mound on three days’ rest, but he continued to flash impressive stuff in his final start of the 2022 campaign, striking out seven over five innings of one-run ball in the Giants’ 6-2 loss to the Padres at Petco Park.

The 34-year-old right-hander allowed seven hits and limited the damage to a third-inning RBI single by Manny Machado, but he received scant support from his offense, which recorded only four hits and didn’t get on the board until the eighth inning. The Giants (80-81) will now need to win Wednesday’s season finale to avoid being swept and finish at .500.

Cobb had never pitched on short rest before, but he said he decided to move up his outing to help give the Giants’ relievers a breather following a slew of recent bullpen games. With Rodón officially shut down, San Francisco is expected to lean on its bullpen to soak up innings again on Wednesday.

“I was tired, but I kind of liked it,” Cobb said of the experience. “The feels and the cues of what you can only muster up throughout the course of the game came back quicker. I had never done it before, so I thought it’d be cool to see what that feels like.”

Cobb, who joined the Giants on a two-year, $20 million deal over the offseason, ended the year with a 3.73 ERA and a career-high 151 strikeouts over 149 2/3 innings, the most he’d thrown since 2018. Advanced metrics suggest he pitched even better than those numbers indicate, as he entered Tuesday with a 3.22 expected ERA and a 2.88 FIP, which ranked ninth among Major League starters who threw a minimum of 140 innings this year.

While Cobb posted the best velocity and ground-ball rate of his career, the Giants often struggled to support him defensively, a trend that continued in the first inning when Jurickson Profar reached on a leadoff single and advanced to third following a two-base error from first baseman David Villar.

“I think it’s easy for us to say he had a really good year,” Kapler said of Cobb. “We know that some of the circumstances hurt him in the middle of the season, ones that we’ve discussed on several different occasions. I still think if we catch the ball a little bit better behind him in the middle of the year, his numbers are even better.”

Cobb’s ERA stood at 5.73 on May 29, but he finished strong after returning from his second stint on the injured list, logging a 3.05 ERA over his final 20 starts of the year. He plans to continue his offseason work with Driveline, the data-driven baseball facility that he credits with helping him regain the form he showed before undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2015.

“Their model has proven itself to me,” Cobb said. “I’m just excited to capitalize on the gains that I’ve already had going into this year.”

While Cobb is currently locked into the Giants’ 2023 rotation, there’s more uncertainty surrounding Rodón, who is expected to opt out of the final year of his two-year, $44 million deal and re-enter free agency this winter.

Rodón, 29, emerged as San Francisco’s most dominant starter this season, earning his second consecutive All-Star nod while logging a 2.88 ERA over a career-high 178 innings. He leads Major League starters with a 2.25 FIP and ranks third with 237 strikeouts, making him a strong candidate to draw National League Cy Young votes this year.

Rodón had a chance to surpass the Brewers’ Corbin Burnes (238) for the NL strikeout title if he had made his scheduled start on Tuesday, but the Giants decided to nix his final outing over workload concerns, a route they also took with co-ace Logan Webb earlier this week. Kapler also said Rodón was feeling under the weather on Tuesday, prompting the club to place him on the injured list prior to the game.

“I would evaluate it as A-plus,” Kapler said of Rodón’s season. “This is a very healthy, durable, dependable, top-of-the-rotation ace starter for us all season long.”