Iwamura a student of (ancient) history

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iwamura-rays-091104-450pm.jpgAkinori Iwamura, who went to the World Series with the Tampa Bay Rays last season, is putting the most optimistic spin possible on his recent trade to the Pittsburgh Pirates:

Iwamura, acquired to be the Pirates’ starting second baseman, is hoping his new team can be a contender soon. Really.

“I know, of course, about Roberto Clemente and that it is a great organization,” Iwamura said after being traded from Tampa Bay to Pittsburgh on Tuesday night.

Maybe Iwamura is just a really nice guy trying to say the right thing. Maybe he’s naturally more optimistic than Richard Simmons.

Or maybe he simply needs a refresher course in Pirates history. The Pirates were, indeed a great franchise, with five championships and nine pennants to their credit. But the 30-year-old Iwamura was 13 the last time the Bucs made the playoffs, which was also the last time they even managed a winning record.

I’m just hoping Iwamura isn’t too disappointed come spring time when the truth smacks him in the face like an A.J. Burnett shaving cream pie. But from what we’ve seen of him so far, maybe he’ll just be happy to play in one of the prettiest stadiums in baseball.

Follow me on Twitter at @Bharks. For more baseball news, go to NBCSports.com.

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.