Bengie Molina’s name gets brought up every time a catcher is injured, as if a 36-year-old who was incredibly slow and out of shape to begin with hasn’t gotten older, slower, and heavier in the nine months since he last played an MLB game.
If he hasn’t signed yet he probably isn’t going to sign this season and if he isn’t going to sign this season … well, he’s probably retired.
Molina stopped short of agreeing with that sentiment yesterday, but did tell Jon Heyman of SI.com that he doesn’t expect to play in 2011.
Two months ago Molina expressed interest in re-signing with the Giants following Buster Posey’s season-ending injury, but the interest apparently wasn’t mutual. San Francisco traded Molina to Texas in the middle of last season to clear the path for Posey to play every day and Molina went on to face the Giants in the World Series as the Rangers’ primary catcher, but he hit just .249 with a .297 on-base percentage and .326 slugging percentage in 118 games overall.
And now the title of “slowest player in baseball” is wide open.
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.