Cobb brings heat; González brings hits

April 2nd, 2022

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Two years ago, Giants starters  and  found themselves training at the same Arizona gym during the pandemic-induced shutdown.

Cobb saw Wood throwing weighted balls as part of a regimen he learned at Driveline, the analytically driven training facility that has helped resurrect the careers of many Major League pitchers. Cobb had heard the testimonials grow over the years, but Wood gave him the final push to check out the facility for himself. 

At the end of the 2020 campaign, Cobb began working out at Driveline, joining a decorated client list that includes Shohei Ohtani, his former Angels rotation mate. Cobb wasn’t happy with the life on his fastball, so he started working with Driveline director of pitching Bill Hezel to clean up his delivery. 

Not only did Cobb accomplish that goal, but he also began to experience a slight uptick in velocity as a side benefit. After sitting at 90-93 mph on his fastball for most of his career, Cobb crept up into the 92-94 range last year, topping out at 96 mph. This spring, the 34-year-old right-hander is throwing harder than ever, sitting at 94-95 mph and touching 97 in his spring debut against the Angels on Sunday.

“That’s new to me,” he said. “I think I had one 96 last year, possibly. Each year it’s just been kind of creeping up.”

Cobb, who is projected to serve as the Giants’ No. 5 starter after signing a two-year, $20 million deal over the offseason, continued to exhibit extra zip on his fastball on Friday afternoon, when he hit 96 mph in a 7-7 tie with the Rangers at Scottsdale Stadium. He gave up one run on four hits and struck out six over four innings in his second and final exhibition start of the spring.

“I felt great,” Cobb said. “I saw the shapes of all the pitches I was looking for. I had a good feel for the changeup. The fastball had pretty good life to it. The curveball probably wasn’t as sharp and well located early on and then I made a point in the third and fourth to really focus on that. I got some good results with it, so I was happy.”

With only three Cactus League games remaining on the schedule, Cobb’s final tuneup will likely come in a simulated game at Oracle Park next week. He isn’t entirely sure what his livelier fastball will mean for his arsenal going forward, but he’s hoping it will allow him to operate with a bigger margin for error once the regular season begins.

“I would like to say I’ll be freer to miss with location a little bit,” Cobb said. “I had a couple of fastballs today where they leaked middle and I got weak-hit ground balls. Maybe if they were a tick or two [slower], that’s right on the barrel. It’s hard to say yet. Guys see 94-96 all the time. I’m not going to be giving them something they haven’t seen, but more velocity is always better, for sure.”

González impressing
Luis González
was a third-round Draft pick of the White Sox in 2017, but he was released as a cost-cutting measure after undergoing season-ending surgery on his right shoulder last summer. He ended up getting claimed off waivers by the Giants, who stashed him on the 60-day injured list before outrighting him off the 40-man roster in November.

González, 26, ended up re-signing on a Minor League deal and is now in big league camp as a non-roster invitee. Now healthy, the left-handed-hitting outfielder is beginning to open eyes after going 9-for-17 (.529) with a home run and six RBIs over eight Cactus League games.

“A lot of people have been impressed by Luis’ at-bats,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “A lot of people have been impressed by the quality of contact. He’s also made some really impressive throws from the outfield in our drills. The shoulder is nearly fully recovered. He’s always been a good hitter. But he’s been very impressive so far.”

González said he’s still working through some soreness in his non-throwing shoulder, but he credited the Giants’ training staff with helping him complete his rehab and return to the field this spring.

“I’m starting to get to the point where I’m feeling normal again,” González said. “I think I’m still battling some tightness in there. But other than that, I’m taking care of my routines in the mornings and doing all that stuff is really helping it out. I’m getting to the point where I’m feeling 100 percent.”

Steven Duggar is slated to take on a bigger role in the outfield now that LaMonte Wade Jr. is expected to open the season on the injured list, but González could force himself into the conversation for a roster spot over the final week of Spring Training, especially since first baseman Brandon Belt, another left-handed hitter, has yet to appear in a Cactus League game due to right knee inflammation.

“I think the Giants know I can bring a lot to the table,” González said. “There’s a lot of things I can do. Hopefully I can display all those abilities.”