It seems a bit obvious to say this considering the alternative is currently Andy Sonnanstine, but Alex Cobb should remain in the Rays rotation the rest of the season.
Yes, he's only made two starts in his career; one being a pitch-tipping fiasco. Last night's start gives you an indication of what he's capable of accomplishing. He wasn't totally dominant - he did walk four batters - but he held a very good Texas lineup in check for six innings. All the Rays need is for Cobb to be a number four or five starter and I think he's capable of that this season. If you accept that Wade Davis is the Rays' number four starter from here on out, that gives the team a pretty formidable front four of David Price, James Shields, Jeremy Hellickson, and Davis. I haven't been a huge fan of Davis' new approach this season, but if he's your number four then you're in pretty good shape. That leaves the last spot to Cobb, Jeff Niemann, or Andy Sonnanstine. Lets look at the two challengers to Cobb.
Niemann is the incumbent, but that doesn't mean much if you're struggling as bad as he has been. Beginning in June of 2010 Niemann's month by month FIP's have been as follows:
Looking back at his 2009 campaign, Niemann didn't have a FIP over 4.00 for any month after May. Something obviously happened. He battled injuries toward the end of last season and that has continued this year with the Big Nyquil currently on the DL. He's set to begin a rehab assignment on Friday. What happens when he's ready to return to the majors? If Cobb is pitching well do you really send him down again in the hopes that Niemann regains his 2009 form? Or since he can't seem to stay healthy do you limit Niemann's workload for the remainder of the season and stick him in the bullpen? Personally, I have more faith in Cobb than I do Niemann remaining healthy for the rest of the season.
With the announcement that Sonnanstine will start Friday's game in Seattle it's obvious why Brandon Gomes was optioned to Durham to make room for Cobb. The Rays are using Sonnanstine to set up the rotation for the Red Sox series. If that wasn't the case I suspect it would have been Sonnanstine demoted instead of Gomes. He's simply not what he was a few years ago and giving him anymore than the one start on Friday is a mistake the Rays cannot make.
Simply put, the Rays don't have better options than Cobb at this point. He has little left to prove in the minors and while he doesn't project to be a top of the rotation starter he does fill a role the Rays desperately need at the moment.