Injuries continue to pile up for the Phillies, as Todd Zolecki of MLB.com reports that center fielder Shane Victorino has left the team in Florida and traveled back to Philadelphia to have his thumb examined by a hand specialist.
Victorino injured his thumb Sunday and missed yesterday’s game while wearing a protective sleeve, with Michael Martinez filling in for him in a 1-0 victory.
Zolecki writes that the current plan is for Victorino to rejoin the Phillies in time for tomorrow night’s game in Florida, but obviously that will depend on what the specialist determines today and in the meantime they’ve added John Mayberry Jr. to the roster as an extra outfielder.
Philadelphia’s disabled list is already packed with pitchers Ryan Madson, Jose Contreras, Brad Lidge, Joe Blanton, and Roy Oswalt, plus third baseman Placido Polanco has been struggling to play through back problems for two months now, but losing Victorino would really hurt. He leads the team in batting average (.303), on-base percentage (.376), slugging percentage (.524), OPS (.900), and runs (53) in addition to his usual defensive value in what has been the best season of his career so far.
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.