Gotta hand it to the Yankees: they really know how to counter a move. The Phillies get Cliff Lee? Bam! New York gets Mark Prior. The Brewers snag Zack Greinke? Bam! New Yorks signs Luis Vizcaino.
OK, that’s not fair. I know those moves aren’t in response to anything and would have happened anyway. I do think their timing is kind of amusing, though, because it makes me imagine an alternative reality in which the Yankees are barely able to stay afloat, live off of scrap-heap signings and bank everything on lighting-in-a-bottle performances. In this mini-fantasy, Brian Cashman transforms from his current self preaching patience about the team’s offseason plans into a 20-year older version of himself, more disheveled, pleading with Yankees fans to have patience because it takes a lot of time to build a winning team.
Yeah, I have lame fantasies.
Anyway, Vizcaino used to be with the Yankees and is late of Cleveland, where he hasn’t pitched in the majors since June 2009. His top end is probably garbage-time middle-reliever, the sort of which rarely if ever get their own posts here at HBT.
But hey, if it gives me an opportunity to imagine the Yankees as a struggling mid-market team in the middle of its third five-year plan in the past decade it’s totally worth it.
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.