Stephen Strasburg just completed his first MLB start since undergoing Tommy John surgery last September. And it was fantastic.
Strasburg held the Dodgers to just two hits over five scoreless innings. He threw 40 out of 56 pitches for strikes while striking out four and walking none.
According to Brooks Baseball, Strasburg averaged 96.68 mph on his fastball and topped out at 98.7 mph while his changeup and curveball were just as nasty as they were before the surgery. The Nationals gave up three runs in the top of the sixth inning to erase a 3-0 lead, so Strasburg will be handed a no-decision. It would have been nice to see him get the victory, but the important part is that he walked away healthy.
Each of Strasburg’s first 13 major league starts have been an event. I suppose we’ll eventually get to the point where a Strasburg start will feel like a Justin Verlander start or a Tim Lincecum start, but hopefully he’ll continue to be appointment viewing for a long time. Nice to have him back.
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.