Put your pitchforks down, because Valverde wasn’t taunting or being provocative. He was just being Jose Valverde, which we are coming to learn is a thing. Half joking, half wishful thinking, but generally not caring.
Still, he did say it, and it’s rather fun to see someone eschew the “we gotta play ’em one game at a time” card:
“It’s over for the Yankees. No more. One hundred percent. I want it over, because I want my team in the second round.” … “Is this a prediction, or your hope?” Valverde was asked by a reporter. Valverde reached out and good-naturedly put his hand on the shoulder of the reporter and said, “What do you think?”
It sounded more like a man blowing off some happy steam after a tough save in which he threw more pitches than he’s used to throwing.
Although, I suppose I’d be less inclined to take that as a joke if he said it following a Tigers’ victory tonight because A.J. Burnett would have to start the elimination game for the Yankees tomorrow in such an event. God, that has to happen. For the love of all that is holy, that has to happen.
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.