MINNEAPOLIS — After wearing the same uniform for the past four seasons with the Tampa Bay Rays Kirk Cousins Jersey Big , Alex Cobb and Jake Odorizzi face off Sunday as Cobb’s Baltimore Orioles try to avoid a sweep when they take on Odorizzi and the Minnesota Twins at Target Field.
With the Rays in a full-blown rebuild, both pitchers found new homes this past spring. Odorizzi was traded to Minnesota early in spring training while Cobb was one of the many free agents who waited out an unnerving winter before eventually signing a four-year, $57 million deal with Baltimore late in camp.
Now, only a week away from the All-Star break, neither pitcher — nor his team — is having the kind of season they anticipated Opening Day.
It’s been especially painful for Cobb (2-10, 6.53 ERA), whose deal was the largest offered to an Orioles pitcher. The right-hander was expected to be a stabilizing force in a rotation that had designs on a postseason berth but instead, he slumped out of the gate and went 2-9 with a 7.14 ERA through his first 12 starts in an Orioles’ uniform.
Through that, there have been flashes of the pitcher Baltimore had in mind when it made the deal. He’s held opponents to three earned runs or fewer in eight of his 15 starts overall, including his last time out when he held the Phillies to three while striking out five in 6 2/3 innings.
“Alex is going to be a good pitcher,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “He is a good pitcher at times this year. It’s hard. It’s hard. He’s hardened from pitching in the American League. He knows the fine line between success and failure.”
With his team holding baseball’s worst record and buried in the basement of a division dominated by the Yankees and Red Sox, Cobb knows the playoffs aren’t even a pipe dream at this point. But he still has a goal of finishing the season strong and setting the stage for a bounce-back campaign in 2019.
“I don’t want to say take it almost spring training-like, but we have to do whatever it takes for each and every one of us to get better going forward,” Cobb said. “When you get hung up on results, I think that you let that cloud the process that’s going on to make yourself get better. I don’t want it to be framed to any fans or front office, coaching staff, that we’re not going out there trying to win ballgames. We absolutely are, every single night.
“But we also need to not be so result-oriented and take the small progressions that we’re making and get better. If we want to compete later on this year, next year, we need to get better each and every one of us — individually.”
Cobb is 2-0 with a 2.20 ERA in three starts versus Minnesota.
Things haven’t been much better in the Twin Cities Authentic Harrison Smith Jersey , where Odorizzi (3-6, 4.57 ERA) was expected to be a key addition to a Twins team that was thought to be a contender with Cleveland for the AL Central title after making an unexpected trip to the American League wild-card game a year ago.
He opened the year on a high note, going 3-2 with a 3.17 ERA through his first 10 outings but has struggled with consistency since, posting a 6.81 ERA over his last eight starts.
“It’s upsetting and frustrating … it’s not something I take lightly,” Odorizzi said of his struggles late last month. “I take a lot of pride in getting guys out. Trust me, I’m more frustrated about this than anybody in this clubhouse. This has been one of the tougher stretches in my short big-league career.”
Odorizzi has shown signs of bouncing back in his last two outings. He held the White Sox scoreless for six innings, allowing three hits while striking out eight, but took a no-decision June 28 in Chicago and followed that with a strong showing in Milwaukee where the Brewers managed only two runs while striking out nine times over five innings.
Odorizzi, who hasn’t won since May 8, is 5-4 with a 4.42 ERA in 19 games (18 starts) versus Baltimore.
Tennessee general manager Jon Robinson got his NFL start as a scout with the New England Patriots, the same team his new head coach Mike Vrabel won three Super Bowl rings as a linebacker.
Yes, it seems like the Titans are trying to implement the Patriot Way in Music City.
Vrabel said that’s what it looks like – until the Titans win big themselves.
”You have to be able to win championships before people start giving you ways to do things,” Vrabel said Monday. ”So that’ll be our ultimate goal. … Until we can win a championship doing that, there’s not going to be this Titan Way. It will be talked about in the building. But people from outside the building, they won’t believe in us, they won’t have faith in us until you win.”
The Titans introduced Vrabel as their new coach Monday. They agreed to terms with Vrabel on Saturday , just five days after firing Mike Mularkey coming off the franchise’s first playoff win in 14 years.
This is the first head coaching job for Vrabel, 42.
Titans controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk noted Robinson and Vrabel have known each other for years. She also likes Vrabel’s experience and vision for building on back-to-back 9-7 seasons.
”I believe he will do everything he can to bring this town a championship,” Strunk said.
Vrabel is coming off his first season as defensive coordinator for the Texans. Vrabel started his NFL career in Pittsburgh under coach Bill Cowher before signing with New England under coach Bill Belichick, and he finished in Kansas City. In 2011 Harrison Smith Jersey Big , he joined the staff at his alma mater, Ohio State, coaching linebackers and then defensive linemen.
He said nobody’s ever really ready to be a head coach for the first time in the NFL, though Vrabel feels as ready as he can be thanks to his doctorate degree in coaching he picked up working with some of the best in the game.
”There will be things that I take from New England, from Pittsburgh, from Ohio State, from Houston,” Vrabel said. ”I mean there will be things that I take from everywhere. You draw on these experiences just like everybody else would in life … The nice thing is now there’s things that I didn’t like that Billy did, I get to change them. So there’s things I like that he did, I get to use them.”
Vrabel went to Houston in 2014 and coached linebackers with the Texans for three seasons before becoming coordinator. The Texans won the AFC South in 2015 and 2016 thanks in part to strong defenses. The unit slipped this season amid injuries to players including J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus.
Building on the Titans’ playoff win in Kansas City means putting Marcus Mariota in position to blossom. Whoever Vrabel hires as his offensive coordinator will be Mariota’s third going into his fourth NFL season, and Ohio State co-offensive coordinator Ryan Day reportedly is the early favorite for the job in Tennessee.
”I think Amy’s going to trust me to hire the right guy for Marcus,” Vrabel said. ”Jon’s going to trust me to hire the right guy for Marcus or I wouldn’t have been hired.”
And Vrabel made it very clear he knows the potential for Mariota, the 2014 Heisman Trophy winner and No. 2 pick overall in 2015. He recalled Mariota pulling a hamstring Oct. 1 against the Texans.
”A special talent, a special kid, and I can’t wait to work with him and help him through taking that next step in his career,” Vrabel said.
This was Robinson’s first head coaching search since being hired in January 2016, two days before the Titans took the interim tag off Mularkey. The Titans went 21-22 with Mularkey taking a team that had the NFL’s worst record at 5-27 combined over 2014 and 2015 to a team that lost in the AFC divisional round to New England.
Mularkey was fired less than 48 hours after that loss. The Titans interviewed only three people with Vrabel first to meet with them Thursday. The Titans also interviewed Carolina defensive coordinator Steve Wilks and Los Angeles Rams offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur .