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Orioles round out starting pitching rotation, finalize 4-year contract with Alex Cobb

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USA Today Sports

Orioles round out starting pitching rotation, finalize 4-year contract with Alex Cobb

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Alex Cobb's comfort and familiarity with the AL East was the deciding factor in his decision to sign with the Baltimore Orioles.

"They used the AL East and the success I've had in it to their advantage," the 30-year-old right-hander said Wednesday after finalizing a $57 million, four-year contract. "They kept challenging me with it and I love the challenge of pitching in this division and they know that over the times we talked. They did a really good job of making me feel like this is where I need to be."

Cobb gets $14 million in each of the first three seasons and $15 million in 2021, and he would earn a $500,000 bonus in each year he pitches 180 innings. Baltimore will defer $6.5 million from this year's salary and $4.5 million in each of the next three seasons.

He gets $2 million of the deferred money on Nov. 30, 2022, and $1.8 million annually on Nov. 30 from 2023-32. If he doesn't pitch at least 130 innings in 2020, an additional $5.25 million of the final's year salary would get deferred, payable $1.75 million annually on Nov. 30 from 2033-35.

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Cobb has a full no-trade this year, then can list 10 teams from 2019-21 that he cannot be dealt to without his consent.

He had spent his entire six-season big league career with Tampa Bay and was the last big-name starting pitcher available in a slow-moving free agent market. He joined Andrew Cashner and Chris Tillman, who were signed last month, in a revamped rotation that includes holdovers Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman.

Cobb was 12-10 with a 3.66 ERA in 29 starts last season. He pitched 179 1/3 innings in his first full year back after missing nearly two seasons because of Tommy John surgery.

He had turned down the Rays' $17.4 million qualifying offer in November, and Baltimore pursued him from the start of free agency.

"They didn't stop bothering me the whole offseason," Cobb said. "They were very persistent, and I think that you notice that confidence they have in you just by the way they speak to you and the questions you ask and not questioning anything that's gone on. Everyone's got flaws that they come with and potential things you could really harp on that might not be your strong suit, but they never went down that avenue. They always told me how much they like certain aspects of what I do on and off the field, and just kept repeating how well I fit in here."

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Cobb is 48-35 with a 3.50 in six big league seasons. Baltimore will lose its third-highest draft pick, currently No. 51, and the Rays get an extra selection after the first round as compensation.

Jose Mesa Jr. was designated for assignment Wednesday to clear a roster spot.

Baltimore opens on March 29 at home against Minnesota, but Cobb won't be ready to pitch then. He has agreed to be optioned to a minor league affiliate to help build up innings.

"I'm going to be pushing it as quick as I can," Cobb said. "That's going to be up to them. They've invested in me for a four-year period and as much as we know how much every game matters even early in April, we're going to have to look out for the overall future of this whole thing and whole contract and whatever they determine to be the way to protect me and my feedback from the bullpens I'm going to be throwing here in the next few days will probably determine the timeline."

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Hunter Harvey’s Major League debut a bright spot in long Orioles season

Hunter Harvey’s Major League debut a bright spot in long Orioles season

For some first-round draft picks, the Major Leagues are merely a season or two away. Other top prospects take longer, sometimes three or four seasons. Hunter Harvey’s path was a bit more complicated than that.

It was more than six years ago that Harvey was selected by the Orioles in the 2013 MLB Draft. Early in his professional career, he looked like a potential steal as the 22nd pick in that year’s class. He dominated hitters at the lower levels of the minor leagues, and looked like a future staple atop the Orioles rotation.

Of course, there’s a reason the old adage “there’s no such thing as a pitching prospect” exists.

Harvey missed the entire 2015 season with elbow tightness, then pitched just 12.2 innings in 2016 before undergoing Tommy John surgery. He threw only 18.2 innings in 2017 after his recovery, so he entered the 2018 season having tossed just 144.1 innings in five years since being drafted.

Harvey was still used as a starter in 2018 across 32.1 mostly unspectacular innings, but this season, the front office decided to try him out as a reliever.

Early on, it’s been a terrific transition for Harvey, whose natural arm talent plays up even more in shorter stints. And it was out of the bullpen that Harvey finally, after all these years, made his big league debut Saturday.

And what a debut it was.

Working around a walk, Harvey tossed a hitless, scoreless inning against the heart of the vaunted Red Sox lineup. He averaged over 98 mph on his fastball, while flashing potential plus offspeed pitches. 

Harvey ended the inning with back-to-back strikeouts, a stretch that included nine consecutive strikes.

The Orioles haven’t had many positive moments to point to in 2019, but this definitely qualifies as one. If he can harness his incredible stuff and -- here’s the key -- stay healthy, Harvey could be a dominant late-inning reliever, or potentially even a mid-rotation starter.

Of all the players to wear the orange and black in Baltimore this season, Harvey is one of the few who can stick around long enough to contribute to the next great Orioles team.

More than any excitement surrounding his future, it’s just cool to see somebody overcome countless obstacles to realize their dreams.

That experience wasn’t lost on Harvey himself.

From his incredible mullet, to his long and winding road to the Majors, there’s a lot to cheer for with Harvey. If he can replicate his debut inning a few more times this season, then fans in Baltimore will have to admit he was worth the wait.

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All it took for Chris Davis to break out of his slump was a letter from a Red Sox fan

All it took for Chris Davis to break out of his slump was a letter from a Red Sox fan

Well, dang. We did not expect to need tissues for this video.

When Orioles first baseman Chris Davis was in the midst of the worst slump in Major League Baseball history, it often felt from afar like nothing could pull him out of his doldrums. It was difficult to watch Davis make the worst kind of history, knowing there was nothing fans can do to help.

Apparently, that was a mistake. All it took was a letter.

Henry Frasca, a diehard Red Sox fan, hated watching Davis struggle. So, when the O’s were in town to play his favorite team, he decided to write Davis a letter of encouragement.

The note made its way to Davis, who kept it with him. Inspired by the kind words, Davis had a breakout day at the plate, driving in four runs one his first three hits of 2019. The longtime Oriole has kept the letter with him ever since.

Frasca was unaware of the specific impact his message made, but as the Orioles returned to Fenway Park once again, he was given the opportunity of a lifetime.

This is, frankly, one of the coolest things we’ve seen in a long time. Frasca is just nine years old, but his view on the world and, specifically, helping those in need is both mature beyond his years and inspiring to the adults around him.

The most impressive part of the letter, as Orioles broadcaster Gary Thorne highlights in his interview, is the idea that how Davis is playing on the field does not define the person he is off it.

It’s an insightful message, one that’s easy for even grown men and women to forget when cheering on their favorite players from afar. For someone so young, who roots for a rival team, to recognize it so early is mighty impressive.

The video is five minutes long, but well worth every second of your time. Well done to the Orioles, Thorne, Davis, and of course, Frasca most of all.

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