It's always tough to know what to expect in a pitcher's first year back from Tommy John, and Alex Cobb's case was more mysterious than most.
The Rays right-hander opted for PRP injections in attempting to avoid the surgery, but ultimately went under the knife in May of 2015. He didn't return until last September and looked very rough during a late-season stint, posting an 8.59 ERA in five starts while flashing reduced velocity.
So it was anyone's guess what we were going to get in 2017 from the 29-year-old, who emerged as a high-end starter by posting a 2.82 ERA in 49 starts between 2013 and 2014 before all of this elbow unpleasantness.
The first couple of months were a mixed bag for Cobb, to be sure, and he hit rock bottom with his first start in June, in which the Mariners pummeled him for nine runs on 14 hits over five frames. Since that low point, however, he has been starting to look a whole lot more like his old self. And his outing this week was the most encouraging thing we've seen yet since he underwent surgery more than two years ago.
Facing the Pirates in Pittsburgh, Cobb took a no-hitter into the seventh before ultimately settling for eight innings of scoreless, two-hit ball. He wasn't awarded a win, since Alex Colome coughed up a two-run lead in the ninth, but it was still a tremendous performance from the rapidly improving right-hander.
Cobb's four starts since that clunker in Seattle have all been quality, and he owns a 1.63 ERA during that span. He's still available in almost 40 percent of Yahoo leagues, so this looks like a good time to snag him if you can.
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* Is this the end of the road for Bartolo Colon? His age-defying extension of a two-decade playing career has been nothing short of remarkable, but at age 44, it appears he's finally out of gas. Colon, 2-8 with a hideous 8.14 ERA through 13 starts, was designated for assignment by the Braves this week.
Tethered to a $12.5 million salary, he will likely pass through waivers unclaimed, leaving his future very much in limbo. There's no chance the hurler will go pitch at Triple-A, so it might be time to hang up the cleats on a commendable run. Then again, there are some teams out there really desperate for rotation help.
* On Tuesday night, Cubs catcher Miguel Montero could not stop the running game, as the Nationals ran wild for seven steals. While he was unable to gun down base runners, he was successful in shooting himself in the foot, as a postgame rant in which he pointed fingers at Chicago's pitching staff (namely Tuesday starter Jake Arrieta in this instance) led to his being released, with Cubs president Theo Epstein outright calling him a bad teammate.
Montero's complaints might have had merit, but it's clearly bad form, and controlling the running game has been a longtime issue for him. Regardless of the bad PR, however, Montero will surely latch on elsewhere thanks to his bat, which has been producing solidly this year with a .286/.366/.439 in 45 games. It all might even work out in his favor if he winds up with a weaker timeshare partner than Willson Contreras. Toronto is one team reported to have interest.
* The injury bug has bitten the Yankees so badly that not even their replacements can stay healthy. Already without Greg Bird (foot/ankle), Starlin Castro (hamstring), Aaron Hicks (oblique) and Matt Holliday (fatigue), New York called up prospects Tyler Austin and Dustin Fowler over the past week, only to watch both go down almost immediately.
Austin was placed on the DL after four games with a high-grade hamstring strain that could sideline him for several weeks. Fowler's stay with the Yanks was even shorter, and his situation more frightful: the outfielder suffered an open rupture of his patellar tendon in a collision with the wall during his first big-league game, and required late-night surgery. He's gone for the year.
Still in one piece, for now, is the club's other recent call-up, Tyler Wade. A versatile fielder, he was hitting .313/.390/.444 with 24 steals on 28 attempts at Triple-A and holds moderate fantasy appeal if he's in the lineup regularly. At this point, what choice does Joe Girardi have?
* At long last, Carlos Rodon was activated to make his 2017 White Sox debut on Wednesday night, after losing almost the entire first half to biceps tendinitis. His first start was a rocky one, with the 24-year-old southpaw missing the zone on more than half his pitches and issuing six walks over five innings. However, he only allowed two hits and all three of his runs allowed were unearned, so it wasn't all bad.
Rodon took a big step forward with his control in 2016, so hopefully this was just a hiccup out of the gates. On the bright side, his velocity looked very good, with the fastball clocking in at 94 MPH on average. He's out there in more than half of all Yahoo leagues.
* Desperate for relief help, the Nationals signed Kevin Jepsen to a minor-league contract on Thursday. He'll report to Class-AAA Syracuse, where he'll try to impress the organization enough to earn a call-up ahead of his July 26th opt-out date.
Jepsen was a trainwreck last season and the same was true this spring, as the D-backs released him in late March with a 12.27 Cactus League ERA, but he was very good as recently as 2015. The Twins acquired him at the deadline that year and he took over at closer during the final stretch with Glen Perkins struggling. Jepsen notched 10 saves while pitching lights-out.
Still only 32, and if he can relocate that form with his mid-90s fastball he could return to fantasy relevance pretty quickly. The Nats are searching for answers at the end of games, though they haven't come across too many save opportunities thanks to an offense that steadily generates lopsided victories.
* Chase Anderson's breakout year for the Brewers is going to need to be put on ice, for the time being. The right-hander suffered an oblique strain while batting on on Wednesday and is likely out until August.
It's a rough break for the first-place Brew Crew as Anderson had been leading their rotation with a 6-2 record and 2.89 ERA. He was particularly good in the month of June, where he posted a 1.56 ERA and 33-to-5 K/BB ratio. It's unclear at this point who might replace Anderson in the Milwaukee rotation.
* Making his Miller Park debut on Friday night, Stephen Vogt bashed two home runs. Given his quality track record as a hitter, we're expecting it to be the start of a much better run in Milwaukee after he was cut loose by the A's last week.
* Opposing lineups beware: Corey Kluber has found his groove. The Cleveland ace got off to a rocky start this year, and then spent most of May on the DL, but he's been completely locked in of late. With a brilliant effort on Thursday, he wrapped up a month of June in which he went 4-0 with a 1.26 ERA, notching double-digit strikeouts in four of his five starts. Kluber is on track to quickly become a factor in the AL Cy Young race despite the missed time.
* The Rays acquired shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria from the Marlins in exchange for a pair of prospects. It's a necessary move for Tampa with their infield depth eroded long-term injuries to Matt Duffy and Brad Miller. Hechavarria doesn't offer much punch, nor does he run much, but he's capable of hitting for a decent average and goes from being an option in NL-only leagues to AL-only leagues.
* The Brewers traded light-hitting shortstop Nick Franklin the Angels.
* The Phillies promoted outfield prospect Nick Williams and while he might not stick around long, he offers some deep-league appeal as long as he's up.