The Padres hoped that Gregg Zaun would feel well enough after shoulder surgery to back up primary catcher Nick Hundley this season, but they are back to the drawing board now that the 39-year-old backstop has announced his retirement.
However, they can probably cross one option off their list.
Dan Hayes of the North County Times hears that the Padres did indeed reach out to Bengie Molina — confirming a report by Marty Caswell of XX1090 Sports Radio in San Diego — but were told that “he is retired.”
UPDATE: This could be some haggling on the part of Molina, as Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News spoke with the veteran catcher today, who said he’s “definitely not retired.”
There were some rumors earlier this winter that Molina was considering backing up his younger brother Yadier in St. Louis, but it looks like he’ll be comfortable calling it a career unless he can get a guaranteed deal for a fair salary.
Molina, 36, batted .249/.297/.326 with five homers and 36 RBI over 416 plate appearances between the Giants and Rangers last season, so it’s easy to see why he didn’t receive much interest this winter. If he’s truly done, he’ll hang ’em with two Gold Glove awards, a .275 career batting average, 1,317 hits and 144 home runs over 13 major league seasons. Oh, and he hit for the cycle last July.
As for the Padres, Rob Johnson, who was acquired from the Mariners in December, appears to be the in-house favorite for the backup job right now, though non-roster invitees Kyle Philips and Guillermo Quiroz could also be in the mix.
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.