Sale duels with Cobb as White Sox host Rays
CHICAGO -- Alex Cobb's body of work this season has been limited to only four starts, but it's been enough for Tampa Bay Rays' manager Kevin Cash to consider it a success.
Cobb will make his final start on Tuesday against the Chicago White Sox. Cobb, who missed the entire 2015 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery last year, has pitched at least six innings in two of his four starts. He is coming off a no-decision when he allowed two earned runs and four hits over five innings Sept. 2 against the Toronto Blue Jays.
Cobb's assignment Tuesday won't be simple as he faces off against White Sox ace Chris Sale (16-9), who manager Robin Ventura said Monday could still pitch twice before the regular season ends on Sunday.
But for Cobb, Tuesday's start will be much more about the future than it is about the present.
"I think (this season) is a big success because Alex goes into the offseason knowing that he's back," Cash said. "Obviously, there's room for improvement and he'll get a better feel for all of his pitches and the fastball will probably tick up a little bit more.
"Alex has come a long way and to come up here and have success has to be a reassuring feeling that he worked his tail off to get back here."
Cash said that Rays' officials are expecting Cobb to have a normal offseason with no limitations and won't have to work around managed limitations like he has since he rejoined the Rays last month.
Cobb will face a White Sox team that are playing out the string. Although the focus will be to win as much as possible with an uncertain offseason upcoming, Ventura said Monday that as long as it's done within the confines of team goals, he's fine with players looking to finish strong individually.
That includes Sale, who, after starting 14-2 has struggled throughout the second half of the season when he has fallen out of contention for the American League Cy Young Award. Sale is 2-4 in his past 10 starts and has lost two out of his past three games after back-to-back no-decisions.
Ventura said that following Tuesday's start against the Rays, Sale -- who is one win shy of his career-best 17 victories -- could also pitch in Sunday's season finale against the Twins.
But depending on how the four-game series against the Rays goes, Ventura said he could keep his starting options open.
"He (Sale) does have that option right now (to start the final game of the season)," Ventura said. "We'll get in and see how we go through it with this series and see where we are with those guys, see where they are physically, how they're doing.
"I don't plan on anything necessarily changing. It could change in a couple days, and we'll see how that goes and make adjustments as we go along. We've got enough guys here to make it through, that's not the issue."