The Red Sox backed out of a trade for Rich Harden before the non-waiver trade deadline due to concerns about his medical records, but there’s still a chance he’ll be dealt this month.
According to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle, the Yankees have had scouts present at each of Harden’s last two starts while scouts from other potential playoff teams have been watching him for even longer.
Harden tied a career-high with 11 strikeouts over seven shutout innings in last night’s win over the Blue Jays. After missing the first three months of the season with a strained lat muscle, the 29-year-old right-hander has a 3.91 ERA and 60/24 K/BB ratio over 53 innings. He is averaging 91.6 mph on his fastball this season, which is up a tick from where he was last season (90.5) with the Rangers.
The Yankees have six starters for five spots right now, but CC Sabathia is the only given for a short-series during the postseason. While Harden would represent an interesting alternative for the Bombers, there’s no guarantee he’ll actually make it to them. Harden was placed on waivers earlier this week, according to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, so a pitching-hungry team like the Angels could potentially put in a claim first.
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.