By Christopher Smith
---- — BOSTON — One reason for area Red Sox fans to show at least a bit of love to the Rays is Tampa Bay right-handed hurler Alex Cobb, who spent the very early part of his life living in North Reading.
Cobb’s family moved from North Reading to Vero Beach, Fla., when Cobb was just 2 years old. Cobb’s parents raised their sons as Boston Red Sox fans.
The right-hander still has family in Worcester and friends of the family in North Reading. So he, his parents and brother visited this area every summer when he was young.
Cobb will take the mound in Game 3 of the American League Division Series tomorrow in Tampa Bay opposite Red Sox righty Clay Buchholz.
The 25-year-old Cobb went 11-3 with a 2.76 ERA in 22 starts this season. He also was the winning pitcher in the one-game Wild Card playoff in Cleveland on Wednesday. He hurled 6.2 scoreless innings.
He started just 22 games because he went on the disabled list for two months after a line drive back to the mound struck him in the right ear on June 15. He sufered a concussion and was carted off the field on a stretcher.
“Alex is definitely a strong-minded kid so after he got hit, I would get texts from him saying he’s doing great, he’s going to be back soon and he really wanted to get back on the field,” Rays bench coach Dave Martinez said before yesterday’s game. “So we knew it wasn’t going to be long. He was just waiting to be cleared.”
Cobb demonstrated his ability to thrive in a pressure situation Wednesday.
“He’s become that pitcher just by hard work,” Martinez said. “He wants the ball every five days. If it was up to him, he’d take it every three days.”
Tampa took its time developing Cobb, a fourth-round pick in 2006 who logged slightly more than 580 minor league innings, not including his rehab stint this year. The Rays have done that with several of their pitching prospects.
“The thing is to bring them up slowly, let them develop and then when we get them here, they are typically ready to go,” Martinez said. “There’s no difference with Alex. ... And he proved to be one of our best pitchers. He’s developed really well. Love him. He’s a gamer.”
Cobb certainly hasn’t had the easiest life. During his senior high school baseball season, his mother, Lindsay Miller-Cobb, died of a stroke at 49 years old.
Also, Cobb’s brother R.J., a captain in the Army, was on patrol in Iraq when an improvised explosive device was thrown at his vehicle. Luckily, R.J. was fine, although a piece of shrapnel had lodged in his hand.
“Very humble,” Martinez said about Cobb. “Great kid.”
Tampa 22-year-old rookie right fielder Wil Myers again heard his name chanted during Game 2. His defensive miscue in the fourth inning of Game 1 opened the gates for the Red Sox to score five times that inning.
“All of us were kind of reiterating the fact that he’s not going to hear the end of it (during Game 2),” Rays third baseman Evan Longoria said Friday. “And if we come back, (the fans) are going to remember it. These are good baseball fans. They understood the importance of that play and how it changed the course of the game.”
Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said before yesterday’s game: “If he channels that properly, it could work to his advantage actually. There’s a lot of great players in the history of sport that like to be booed or maybe have your name chanted loudly.”
Not to get you fans to stop heckling (you have the right to do it when you buy those expensive tickets) but you should know Myers is an extremely hard working player who eats, sleeps and drinks baseball. Baseball was the only career path he ever considered growing up.
Myers told The Eagle-Tribune earlier this summer: “During the season, I don’t do anything but play baseball. I don’t wake up early in the morning and golf or go fish or do anything like that. I come to the ballpark early because I enjoy playing the game and enjoy playing in the major leagues.”
Move over, Rays
We have heard it a million times this week — the Rays are masters of drafting and developing starting pitching.
It’s true. Very true.
But it should be noted the Red Sox have quite a few talented pitchers on the farm, including Henry Owens, Anthony Ranaudo, Matt Barnes, Allen Webster, Trey Ball and Rubby De La Rosa.
And then there is 25-year-old righty Brandon Workman, who began this year with Double-A Portland and is on the ALDS roster.
“The ability to draft, sign and develop particularly starting pitching is the lifeline of any organization,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said yesterday. “And there’s a lot of resources and emphasis that are directed that way.
“But to be able to groom your own starting pitchers, whether it’s the next wave that’s coming, whether it’s Workman, Webster, De La Rosa, guys that have either been acquired in a trade or in the draft, again, that’s the lifeblood of an organization over the long haul.”
Follow Christopher Smith on Twitter @SmittyOnMLB