Blast from the past: the Phillies sign Matt Anderson

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This will likely be the first and the last time we blog about Matt Anderson this year, but I am a sucker for comeback stories so it’s worth a mention. The Phillies signed him. Minor league deal, of course.

For those who are blanking, Anderson was the No. 1 overall pick in the 1997 draft, selected by the Tigers. Once upon a time he could throw the ball 100 miles per hour. The Tigers rushed him up the ladder in 1998, but it was mostly OK: he embarrassed Single-A and Double-A hitters that summer, and struck out a batter an inning during his major league callup that year. After starting the 1999 season in Toledo, he stuck with the big club as a reliever through the 2003 season, though he was hurt much of the time those last couple of years.

The circumstances of his most famous injury — a torn muscle in his armpit in 2002 — remain clouded.  It was widely reported at the time that he hurt himself during an octopus-throwing contest at Comerica Park.  Really.  It’s a Red Wings thing, for those who don’t know. The team and Anderson denied it at the time, but there never was a truly satisfactory answer for how he got that particular injury at that particular time.

But no matter what caused the injury, after that: wildnerness. Shoulder trouble. Years missed. Independent league ball.  He last saw major league action in a 12-game stint with the Rockies in 2005.  He last pitched organized ball in 2008 in the White Sox system. He’s 34 now. What the Phillies plan on doing with him I have no idea.

But we all love comebacks.  At least when they begin.  Sadly, they almost never end well.  Good luck all the same to you, Matt Anderson.

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.