Righthander Alex Cobb strode to the mound at Durham Bulls Athletic Park just after 7:20 p.m. wearing shirtsleeves, even as the night's forecast called for steady rain, high winds and unseasonably cool temperatures. The rain never really materialized, but thermometers in Durham, N.C., hovered near 55 degrees by the time Cobb departed the game after delivering five effective innings during Opening Night.
The dreary weather seemed not to faze Cobb, who struck out eight Triple-A Gwinnett batters, walked none and allowed six hits, throwing 89 pitches in his five frames. He topped out at 89 mph, according to the stadium radar gun, and spent most of his time pitching at 87-88 during his first start of the season. Cobb struck out the side in the first inning, generating swinging strikeouts with, in order, his curveball, changeup and fastball, while working around two hits, including a leadoff double by Braves center fielder Luis Durango. Cobb breezed through the second inning, too, inducing three meek groundball outs.
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Credit three of Cobb's strikeouts to his changeup, three to his fastball and two to his curveball. The breaking ball, in particular, appeared to be in midseason form, ranging from 76-78 mph and showing consistent depth. The 24-year-old Cobb, a fourth-round pick out of high school in 2006, exhausted his prospect eligibility in his final appearance for the Rays last Aug. 6, but he and Bulls teammates Chris Archer and Alex Torres would be top candidates for recall if Tampa Bay needs a starter.
Cobb's most notable showdowns occurred versus Gwinnett right fielder Jordan Parraz, making his Braves organization debut, and third baseman Joey Terdoslavich, making his Triple-A debut after skipping over the Double-A level entirely. Cobb fanned Parraz on six pitches in the first, showing him a pair of changeups before inducing a swing and miss and a sweeping 78 mph breaking ball. In the third inning, Cobb issued two 87 mph fastballs, then doubled up on 82 mph changeups to the righty-hitting Parraz, generating two swings and misses for the strikeout.
Terdoslavich, a switch-hitter batting lefty, saw four straight changeups in the first inning before swinging and missing at an 89 mph fastball on the inner half. He took an 83 mph changeup away for strike three in the third inning after fouling off two of the first five offerings from Cobb.
Durham pitchers struck out 18 Gwinnett batters in 12 innings, as the Bulls and Braves battled into extra frames before Durham won 4-3 on an error by Gwinnett shortstop Greg Paiml. Brandon Gomes, Romulo Sanchez, Dane de la Rosa, Jhonny Nunez, Cesar Ramos and Ryan Reid followed Cobb out of the bullpen.
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