Alex Speier of WEEI.com has a good article about Mike Cameron, who was signed to be the Red Sox’s starting center fielder last offseason and is now slated to be their fourth outfielder following an injury wrecked season and the Carl Crawford signing.
General manager Theo Epstein called Cameron before the Crawford deal was official to inform the veteran outfielder he was no longer likely to be a starter, yet a short time later Cameron still called Crawford to welcome him to Boston.
Cameron is under contract for $7.25 million this season, but his agent told Speier that he’s “not angling to leave the Red Sox just for the sake of more playing time elsewhere” and “has not requested a trade.”
Crawford, Jacoby Ellsbury, and J.D. Drew are the Red Sox’s projected starters, so right now Cameron’s role would likely be limited to starting in place of Ellsbury or Drew against some left-handed pitchers and stepping into the lineup when injuries hit. That would be a big change for a player who’s been a starting center fielder for the past 14 seasons, but if Cameron is indeed willing to accept a part-time role it would give the Red Sox a great fallback option following a season in which injuries tested the organization’s depth.
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.