Scenes from Spring Training: A decision to make

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Not that there is anything on the planet truly worth complaining about down here in Arizona — life is grand, and don’t think for a moment I have forgotten that — but I do face a bit of a conundrum this morning.  Here’s the entire Cactus League schedule for the day:

  • Rockies vs. Diamondbacks 1:10, Salt River Fields
  • Dodgers vs. Angels, 1:05, Tempe Diablo Stadium
  • Dodgers vs. Giants, 1:05, Scottsdale Stadium

I wouldn’t mind actually watching the Rockies, but I really don’t think I can take a third straight day of the Dbacks.  I do want to see the Dodgers when I’m here. But I was with the Giants at Scottsdale Stadium yesterday, and given that Tempe Diablo Stadium is literally right next to my hotel — like, if walking places was’t a Class A felony in the State of Arizona I could totally hoof it over there — I should probably see the Dodgers-Angels thing.

The only reservation I have is that I tend to think that in doing so I’ll be getting the short end of the Dodgers’ split squad.  Mattingly and his bench coach Trey Hillman will be in Scottsdale.  The group facing the Angels will be run by Albuquerque manager Lorenzo Bundy.  On the bright side, Davey Lopes will be with him, and maybe he’ll go crazy and let everyone steal.

As far as players go, Hiroki Kuroda will pitch here in Tempe, and that’s better than Tim Redding vs. the Giants.  Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier will be here too. Casey Blake, Rafael Furcal and Juan Uribe won’t be in either place because they’re veterans and it’s Saturday and veterans don’t get on buses on Saturday, even in the Cactus League. Frankly, I think this all boils down to the Angels. They’re home and it’s their first day, so they’ll probably have way more starters playing than any of the teams involved.

That cuts it: I’m going down the hill to Tempe Diablo Stadium this morning. And I’m going to walk. I expect the police and several county-employed mental health experts to intercept me on the way, wondering what has gotten into me.

Dispatches from the Dodgers-Angels later today, my friends.

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.