Sure enough, he’s hurt: Jonathan Broxton shut down with elbow pain

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UPDATE: Just as we suspected, the Dodgers announced that Broxton has been shut down with elbow pain. Not that an elbow injury qualifies as good news, but at least it potentially explains his struggles beyond “Broxton just stinks now.”

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Jonathan Broxton’s latest ugly outing last night has Jon Weisman of Dodger Thoughts wondering if the closer is pitching through an injury.

Broxton was used in a non-save situation, coming into a 1-1 game in the ninth inning, but followed an Aramis Ramirez pop out with back-to-back walks and was quickly yanked.

Weisman notes that Broxton’s fastball topped out at 93 miles per hour and averaged just 91 mph, which is well off from his usual overpowering velocity. Here’s more:

That’s just not the Broxton of 12 months ago, and I’m not convinced it’s even the Broxton of 12 weeks ago. People have been strangely fascinated with Broxton’s facial expressions and posture, but here’s a suggestion: Someone needs to look at his arm. Even if they’ve looked at it before, look at it again. …

Though I’ve always suspected Broxton’s been off physically since his serious struggles began in late June, this was possibly the first time I watched him and said to myself, “There’s a guy that’s headed straight for the disabled list.” Of course, what I observe from my seat far from the pitcher’s mound has no real relevance, but I just offer it as an impression.

It is, I will say, a little peculiar to me that it doesn’t occur to the people who are calling for Broxton’s head and questioning his mental makeup that Broxton is possibly pitching hurt, and maybe has been for some time. If he has been concealing an injury, I sure hope he comes clean.

Whenever a formerly dominant pitcher has a sudden, sustained drop in performance the initial reaction should definitely skew more toward “maybe he’s hurt” than “maybe he’s a bum now.” Yet as Weisman said above, for some reason that rarely happens.

Broxton was an elite, dominating reliever for four-and-a-half seasons, but he’s been a mess since a four-run appearance on June 27 of last year. He actually took a 0.83 ERA into that game, but since then Broxton has thrown 42 innings with a 7.02 ERA and 35/32 K/BB ratio.

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.