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Can new Angels pitcher Alex Cobb recapture the form Joe Maddon saw in Tampa Bay?

The Baltimore Orioles' Alex Cobb delivers a pitch against the New York Yankees in September 2020.
Alex Cobb, pictured pitching for Baltimore in September, threw a scoreless inning Monday for the Angels in their spring training game against the Chicago White Sox.
(Adam Hunger / Associated Press)

Seven years later, Angels manager Joe Maddon sees the same potential in pitcher Alex Cobb.

After last working together in 2014 with the Tampa Bay Rays, Cobb and Maddon have been reunited this season with the Angels. And despite a Tommy John surgery, a decline in performance and injury problems over the last three seasons with the Baltimore Orioles, Cobb still reminds Maddon of the pitcher who posted a 3.21 earned-run average over his first 81 career starts from 2011 to 2014.

“I’ve seen him really good,” Maddon said. “I know it’s been a couple years, injuries have hurt him a bit, but he’s feeling really good right now. Man, when this guy is right, you sit on the sideline and it looks like a Wiffle Ball up there it moves so much.”

Cobb pitched in his first game of spring training Monday, working around two baserunners to post a scoreless inning in the Angels’ 4-4 tie against the Chicago White Sox in a scheduled five-inning game at Tempe Diablo Stadium.

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“My arm feels great,” said Cobb, who throws a sinker, splitter and curveball. “The ball is jumping really well. I’ve got some good carry on the ball.”

It was a continuation of Cobb’s encouraging start to spring camp. The right-hander’s velocity has jumped to as high as 95 mph. He averaged 92.5 mph on his sinker last year.

“I’m not trying to wrap too much around that thought,” he said. “I think it’d be a byproduct of cleaning up everything else.”

The Angels tied a scheduled five-inning exhibition against the Chicago White Sox 4-4 but several Angels hitters had quality at-bats.

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There was plenty of cleaning up for Cobb to do after a bumpy three seasons with the Orioles, who agreed to trade the 33-year-old to the Angels this offseason and reportedly cover $10 million of his $15-million salary. Between 2018 and 2020, Cobb made just 41 starts and had a 5.10 ERA. In 2019, he underwent season-ending surgery on his hip after making just three starts.

It was after undergoing Tommy John surgery while still with the Rays in 2015, however, that Cobb believes he developed bad habits in his delivery, especially opening up his lower body too early as a way to subconsciously protect himself.

That’s what prompted him to visit the Driveline training center in the Seattle area this winter. The program is known for revamping pitchers’ deliveries and helping them increase velocity. So far, he and his manager have been happy with the results.

“He’s very specific regarding what we’d like him to work on,” Maddon said of Cobb, who will be a free agent after the season. “I’m real eager to watch this. He’s throwing the ball great on the side. He’s really motivated.”

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Rendon enjoying time with Maddon

Angels third baseman Anthony Rendon laughed when asked what it’s been like to play for Maddon.

“Interesting,” Rendon said. “You never know what’s gonna come out of his mouth, and you never know what he’s thinking. And sometimes those two don’t even correlate. He might be thinking something else, but he might say something completely off the grid.”

Before joining the Angels last season, Rendon always thought Maddon “was a nutcase” while observing from the opposing dugout. “But now being on the same team as him, and having conversations with him,” Rendon said, “there’s always a rhyme or reason for why he may do something, even though it might be unorthodox. He did the research, he’s looked at the numbers, and he has a gut feeling.”

Coaching high school baseball at Scottsdale Christian Academy has become a passion for former Angels great Tim Salmon. “This scratches a great itch.”

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Rendon has yet to appear in a game this spring while dealing with some soreness. The second part of last season, however, when Rendon hit .333 over his final 40 games following a slow start, was a confirmation of everything Maddon had expected to see from the All-Star.

“He plays the game tension-free, very calm approach, consistent,” Maddon said. “His work is like a metronome, whether it’s on defense, at the plate. Then when the game gets going, there’s no moment too big for him. He doesn’t come out of his patterns.”

Short hops

After leaving Sunday’s game with discomfort in his right throwing elbow, Angels pitcher Gerardo Reyes was scheduled to have an MRI exam Monday. ... Relief pitcher Junior Guerra has reported to Angels camp and is going through intake protocols. Fellow pitcher José Quijada has yet to report because of visa issues.


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