Joe Girardi has never been a Tony La Russa kind of guy, putting relievers in and yanking them out, playing the matchups and all that jazz. Mariano Rivera is his closer. Joba Chamberlain is his setup guy. Everyone else comes in as needed.
So it seems like a notable thing that Joba Chamberlain didn’t get the call in the eighth inning last night in a close game. Instead, after Javier Vazquez waked Michael Brantley to lead off the inning, Girardi went with Dave Robertson to face Asdrubal Cabrera and Boone Logan to face Shin-Soo Choo. Robertson induced a double play and Logan struck out Choo.
So, did Joba lose his job as the Yankees’ setup guy? Girardi isn’t having it:
“I don’t want to start a thing, ‘who’s our eighth inning guy?’ . . . I’m not saying that I’m handing it over to Joba every time we go into the eighth. I’m going to look at things. I mean, that’s my job. I liked the matchup of Robertson against Cabrera. And I liked Boone against Choo.”
Which makes some sense. Simply giving Joba a night off after a series of shaky appearances makes sense too. But this is New York, kiddos, and nothing is ever this simple, no managers’ explanation ever taken at face value. The Yankees are cruising right now — which is kind of boring — and as soon as A-Rod hits his 600th homer, the beat guys are going to need some red meat on which to chew.
Whether he meant to or not, Joe Girardi just gave them some in the form of Joba Chamberlain.
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.