Astros hire Red Sox bench coach Brad Mills as new manager

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Manny Acta chose Cleveland over Houston when offered both manager jobs, but the Astros announced this afternoon that they’ve found a new skipper in Red Sox bench coach Brad Mills.
Mills and Terry Francona are longtime friends, playing together first at the University of Arizona and then with the Montreal Expos. Francona became the Phillies’ manager in 1997 and hired Mills as first-base coach, and then brought him on board as his bench coach after taking the Red Sox job in 2004. Interestingly, current Houston general manager Ed Wade fired Francona when he held the same job in Philadelphia.
Prior to becoming a fixture of Francona’s coaching staffs Mills managed in the minors for over a decade, so the 52-year-old brings quite a bit of experience to the table. He faces an uphill climb in Houston, because the Astros went 74-88 this season with an aging core of players and don’t have much in the way of high-upside prospects ready to contribute.
Mills previously interviewed for the Mariners job that went to Don Wakamatsu last offseason. He reportedly gets a two-year deal with a third-year option from the Astros.

Zack Cozart thinks the way the Rays have been using Sergio Romo is bad for baseball

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The Rays started Sergio Romo on back-to-back days and if that sounds weird to you, you’re not alone. Romo, of course, was the star closer for the Giants for a while, helping them win the World Series in 2012 and ’14. He’s been a full-time reliever dating back to 2006, when he was at Single-A.

In an effort to prevent lefty Ryan Yarbrough from facing the righty-heavy top of the Angels’ lineup (Zack Cozart, Mike Trout, Justin Upton), Romo started Saturday’s game, pitching the first inning before giving way to Yarbrough in the second. Romo struck out the side, in fact. The Rays went on to win 5-3.

The Rays did it again on Sunday afternoon, starting Romo. This time, he got four outs before giving way to Matt Andriese. Romo walked two without giving up a hit while striking out three. The Angels managed to win 5-2 however.

Despite Sunday’s win, Cozart wasn’t a happy camper with the way the Rays used Romo. Via Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic, Cozart said, “It was weird … It’s bad for baseball, in my opinion … It’s spring training. That’s the best way to explain it.”

It’s difficult to see merit in Cozart’s argument. It’s not like the Rays were making excessive amounts of pitching changes; they used five on Saturday and four on Sunday. The games lasted three hours and three hours, 15 minutes, respectively. The average game time is exactly three hours so far this season. I’m having trouble wondering how else Cozart might mean the strategy is bad for baseball.

It seems like the real issue is that Cozart is afraid of the sport changing around him. The Rays, like most small market teams, have to find their edges in slight ways. The Rays aren’t doing this blindly; the strategy makes sense based on their opponents’ starting lineup. The idea of valuing on-base percentage was scoffed at. Shifting was scoffed at and now every team employs them to some degree. Who knows if starting a reliever for the first three or four outs will become a trend, but it’s shortsighted to write it off at first glance.