SF Giants’ Alex Cobb on first experience with pitch clock: ‘Didn’t feel like baseball’

SF Giants’ Alex Cobb on first experience with pitch clock: ‘Didn’t feel like baseball’

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Standing at his locker Tuesday afternoon, maybe an hour after his first experience with the pitch clock in live action, Giants starter Alex Cobb didn’t waste any time sharing his thoughts on his less-than-blissful two innings in his spring debut.

“Well,” Cobb began, “I mean, I don’t like it right now.”

“It” being the pitch clock, which bugged Cobb perhaps more than any other pitcher on the staff, including slow-paced relievers such as Camilo Doval. He was nicked for one violation, but Cobb said he felt like the ticking clock hung over every other part of his outing in the eventual 7-5 exhibition loss to the Padres.

“It didn’t feel like baseball,” Cobb said. “It didn’t feel like pitching. I’m used to throwing a pitch (and) going through the information at hand, and there’s just no time for that.”

Cobb, who is such a cerebral pitcher he often knows what he wants to throw before his catcher, was looking forward to the opportunity to call his own game using the new PitchCom devices. After trying to balance that, the clock, his mechanics, and two new pitches he is working on, Cobb said he’s likely to shelve the idea, or come up with a hybrid, until he is more comfortable with the increased pace.

As soon as he fired one pitch, Cobb was reaching down to his waistband to send the signal for the next one to Joey Bart behind the plate.

Bart tossed the ball back to Cobb, and he immediately began fidgeting with it. For his entire career, Cobb has rubbed up baseballs the same way. He takes his hand, runs it across the sweaty back of his head and begins to massage the baseball. Now, he has 15 or 20 seconds to do all that, get set and start his motion.

“It’s hard to even digest what was going on,” Cobb said.

Playing catch-up with the clock prevented Cobb from focusing on what is usually his No. 1 objective this early in spring.

“It’s usually very challenging for us at this stage just to get our delivery right,” Cobb said. “That’s the only thing I’m really frustrated about today, I didn’t do much delivery thoughts. I just turned into a thrower and played defense against the clock the whole time.”

It showed.

Cobb struggled to find the strike zone and was visibly frustrated on the mound. He allowed two hits and two walks and for all four base runners to score, the biggest damage coming on a gargantuan blast over the berm in right-center field by San Diego outfielder David Dahl.

His fortunes turned in his second inning, when he let Bart resume calling pitches.

“Right now, there’s too much going on trying to call my own pitches every time,” Cobb said. “Trying to call pitches, get the ball rubbed up the way I want to feel comfortable in my hand, and get it within the time, I just don’t think is doable. …

“I think the challenge is not letting the pace pour over into your delivery. Subconsciously you’re in hurry-up mode. You’re go-go-go. When you start your delivery, you just have to think in your mind: you’re good, slow it down, hit your check points in your delivery, and do that, rather than staying in ‘I’m rushed’ mode. Then you rush through your delivery and a lot of stuff ends poorly. It’s what happened with the home run. I rushed too much and ended up leaving it in the middle of the plate, and it got hit.”

If you’ve gotten the impression that Cobb is against the pitch clock, though, don’t be mistaken.

“The goal of it is good,” Cobb said. “We’re seeing two and a half hour spring training games, which is great. It’s constant action, which is great. I am a fan of the game and I want to grow the game to the younger generation and whoever might not want to watch it because of the pace. So if that helps, I’m on board. But it’s also challenging right now after doing something the same way for the last 20 years.”

Stripling debuts in relief

When Cobb had finished talking, another voice chirped up from an adjacent locker.

“I’ll be the antithesis to that for the most part,” he said.

It was Ross Stripling, who made his Giants debut with two scoreless innings following Cobb.

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