UPDATE: Big Z’s next start might be put on hold, at least for precautionary reasons. Bruce Levine of ESPN Chicago reports that in addition to receiving 10 stitches as a result of the comebacker, Zambrano also suffered soft tissue damage. He is scheduled to undergo more tests in the coming days.
10:45 AM: According to Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune, Carlos Zambrano was hit in the face with a line drive during a start last night with Los Caribes de Anzoátegui in the Venezuelan Winter League.
Zambrano was removed from the game and received stitches at a local hospital, but expects to make his next scheduled start.
Big Z was having his best outing of the winter before being hit by the comebacker, allowing one unearned run on two hits over five innings while striking out four and walking a pair. He has a 3.29 ERA and 12/6 K/BB ratio in 13 2/3 innings over his first three winter league outings.
Zambrano met with new Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein in Chicago last week and was told that he will have to “earn his way back” to staying with the team. The 30-year-old right-hander posted a disappointing 4.82 ERA this season before being placed on the restricted list in mid-August and is owed $18 million in 2012.
MLB Network’s Jon Morosi reports that the Orioles have interest in free agent right-hander Alex Cobb, who rejected his one-year, $17.4 million qualifying offer from the Rays earlier this week. Cobb was most recently linked to the Cubs, who reportedly reached out to his agent during the GM Meetings and garnered mutual interest from the righty, but nothing appears to be set in stone yet.
Cobb, 30, completed his sixth season with the Rays in 2017. He went 12-10 in 29 starts and turned in a respectable 3.66 ERA, 6.4 SO/9 and career-best 2.2 BB/9 in 179 1/3 innings. Despite losing a couple of weeks to turf toe, he remained healthy for most of the year and showed no signs of the elbow issues that robbed him of the majority of his 2015-2016 campaigns.
It’s still fairly early for any deals to come to fruition, but Morosi notes that the Orioles seem to be focused on bulking up their rotation during the first few months of the offseason. It’ll take more than a healthy Alex Cobb to right that ship, however: Orioles’ starters earned a collective 5.70 ERA and 5.5 fWAR in 2017, good for worst and fourth-worst marks in the league, respectively. Behind Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy (and perhaps Gabriel Ynoa/Miguel Castro), they still need three viable starters to compete in 2018. Whether or not they can afford to spring for a single starter with Cobb’s price tag (four years, $48 million, per MLB Trade Rumors) remains to be seen.