In a recent interview with MLB.com, Orioles right-hander Alex Cobb answered a wide range of topics from his slow start on the mound to why it took so long for him to sign with a team after becoming a free agent last offseason. He even had a lot to say about his family.
MLB.com: You have pitched well in five of your last seven starts. What has been working well compared to the beginning of the season?
Cobb: I think it's a matter of being comfortable on the mound again. I try not to use what happened this offseason as an excuse. But it was difficult to go from straight offseason mode to feeling like you are in a big league game almost overnight, it felt like. Being out there and feeling comfortable is such a thing -- as a pitcher -- you take for granted. But a little bit of time away really hurts you, and you try to do too much. So now, I'm really just comfortable where I'm at. I'm able to execute a high amount of pitches. That's going to lead to some success.
MLB.com: Against the Mets this past Tuesday, you were dominating. Why?
Cobb: When I went on the mound against the Mets, I was aggressive. If I do have misses, it's not going to be as costly as they were. You try to be as aggressive as you can in the zone and allow that hitter to try to get himself out.
MLB.com: How much have manager Buck Showalter and pitching coach Roger McDowell helped you relax?
Cobb: A lot. I feel like the first three starts -- they were not only bad starts, they were really detrimental to the team, as far as killing momentum. Buck and Roger took the opportunity to reassure me that they have all the trust, all the faith in the world in me. They know I'm going to get out of what I'm doing. They said nobody is thinking anything differently, nobody is regretting that I'm here. They instilled a lot of confidence in me when things were not good. I think when you hear that from your manager and the pitching coach, nobody is panicking. It gives you a second to take a deep breath.
Video: WSH@BAL: Cobb strikes out Soto looking in the 3rd
MLB.com: The Orioles are off to a slow start. What's the reason behind it?
Cobb: I don't know. I don't have an answer.
MLB.com: The roster has some talented people.
Cobb: I look at that lineup before I go out and pitch and I say, "It's a winning lineup." It seemed like when we hit, we didn't pitch. When we pitched, we didn't hit. That's normal for a team to not click right away, and then usually you get on that run. That run hasn't happened yet. I don't have a good answer for you. I know as an opponent facing this team, just last year, I hated it. I hated coming to Camden Yards and face the Orioles. I wish I had a better answer for you.
MLB.com: You were a free agent this past offseason. How shocking was it that it took so long for you to sign with a team?
Cobb: I don't think you had time to be shocked. … There was no foreseeing what was happening. There is no way to really sit back and get what's going on until it got really deep into the offseason. By that time, you are working so hard on trying to get a deal done, talking to teams. At the same time, you try and get ready for the season and it's happening so fast.
Now looking back on it, it was very surprising. If this was just me that it was happening to, I would have felt pretty non-confident, maybe a little bit down about what was going on. But it happened to the whole industry. There were 10 or more of us looking for multi-year contracts. A lot of us didn't get that. I feel very fortunate the way it worked out for me. I'm very thankful the Orioles placed so much trust in me.
Video: BAL@CWS: Cobb sets down Palka in the 2nd
It was difficult. We as players know that nothing in this game can be taken for granted. We are told to get to free agency and there will be a reward waiting for you. That's not the right mindset to have. We have to fight for everything that we want to get and not expect anything.
MLB.com: Your brother, R.J., earned a Purple Heart in the Iraq War. My question to you is, while you were going through a tough offseason and start of the season, did you put things in perspective knowing what your brother went through during the war?
Cobb: Oh, man. Yeah. … Whenever I struggle in this game and just have a bad day like we all do, it's a very sober reminder that when I talk to a military person or talk to anybody, really, and what they really go through, what I deal with on a day-to-day basis is not even comparable.
MLB.com: What's the biggest advice R.J. gave you?
Cobb: I don't think there is one particular moment where he sat down and said this inspiring quote to me. My brother has always been a stand-up person. He has done everything the right way in life. … I look to him as a role model for a lot of those things. He was always on me from a very young age. If I got caught doing anything, I had more of a fear [getting scolded] by him than getting in trouble with my dad. My brother was bred to be in the military. He is very rules-oriented. He does things the right way. Having an older brother like that was not fun. But looking back, you realize he had me staying on the right path the whole time.
MLB.com: Your mother was a nurse practitioner. Did you think about following in her footsteps?
Cobb: No. As a kid, it was what it was. My mom was a doctor. That's what it was. As I got older, I said, "Wow, Mom is a doctor." She grinded out eight years of school. She dealt with some real heavy stuff. Everybody who went to her came up to me all the time and told me how much they loved seeing my mom. That's an odd thing to say because nobody likes to see a doctor. She had a very impressive way to make people smile.
MLB.com: Do you like going to the doctor?
Cobb: Heck no. I only saw my mom [growing up].
MLB.com: It seems like no matter what happens on the mound, your family will always be there. Is that the right impression?
Cobb: Absolutely. We talked about my brother and my mom, but my dad was my best coach growing up. To this day, he is still my best coach. I received text messages from him. He has TiVo out and he is freezing pitches in games and showing me things that he sees. I think that is one of the cooler things that this game does. It's probably a cool experience for a dad to see his son struggling on TV and then call up and fix the problem. He gives me his perspective.
Video: BAL@BOS: Cobb strikes out 3 in 1st win with Orioles
MLB.com: This is your second full year since you had Tommy John surgery. How's the arm?
Cobb: I feel physically great. No aches, pains or anything with the elbow. I think the biggest challenge with Tommy John has been to get my mechanics back to where they were before the surgery. I was basically off for two years, away from a big league mound. It's difficult to pick up where you started. Looking back, I should have started slower. I was trying to get to the expert level where I left.
MLB.com: You rushed?
Cobb: I rushed to try to get to the expert level, instead of building the foundation and getting better that way. But there aren't any limitations to what I do now because of the surgery. It's just really getting the repetitions in, getting to the point where I don't feel I'm thinking about mechanics anymore. I'm just going to pitch.
MLB.com: I see a guy who is not satisfied. Even though you dominated against the Mets, I feel you have more in the tank.
Cobb: I do. I'm not quite to the point where I've maximized myself yet. There are still a lot of mistakes being made, a lot of unexecuted pitches. But I'm learning a lot through it all. I think at the end, going through the struggles that I went through to come back from Tommy John, it's really going to help me going forward. I'll ultimately become a better pitcher.
MLB.com: You grew up in Vero Beach, Fla., and I understand you were a bat boy for the Dodgers. What was that like?
Cobb: That was cool. It helped me earlier in my professional career being in a locker room. I saw some of the biggest names out there in Vero. When I was 18 years old, it allowed me to feel at home when I first went into Princeton [the Rays' Rookie League affiliate]. You know that locker room smell of baby powder and Bengay. I felt comfortable right away.
MLB.com: Were you sad that the Dodgers left Vero Beach?
Cobb: I was, when it happened. I looked at it as a resident. I was confused by the move. But I'm in pro ball, and I see the challenges that Vero placed on an organization coming from California. I'm almost amazed that they didn't go earlier, the fact that they are an hour flight from their stadium in Arizona now. The logistics of Spring Training -- so many things that me as a player I would tread if I had to have been in Vero. It's not saying anything negative about the city and the facility. It's all beautiful. It's very difficult to have a Spring Training game at 1:00 in the afternoon and have to drive an hour and a half to your opponent and drive back afterward. It beats you up.
Bill Ladson has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2002. He covered the Nationals/Expos from 2002-16. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.