Eric Gagne talked the Rockies into giving him a tryout yesterday:
I basically called them up and said I’m ready. I want to find a place to play and see if you guys give me a shot. I have no expectation. I told them I can help this team. I’m healthy right now. If they think it’s good enough, that’s good.
Unfortunately it sounds like he wasn’t very impressive. Troy Renck of the Denver Post notes that Gagne “looks trimmer and more muscular after working with a mixed martial arts trainer” during the offseason, but added that he “remains a longshot to join Colorado after a pedestrian bullpen session.”
Rockies skipper Jim Tracy would no doubt love to give Gagne a comeback chance after managing him with the Dodgers, but the former Cy Young winner is 34 years old, hasn’t been effective against big-league hitters since mid-2007, and spent last season posting a 4.65 ERA in an independent Canadian league.
At best he’ll get a minor-league deal and have to work his way back to the majors with an impressive stint at Triple-A, but it seems unlikely that he’s even capable of that at this point. On the other hand, if he steps up the MMA training he could probably beat up Jose Canseco some day.
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.