After meeting with the Braves’ physical therapist Tommy Hanson has altered his delivery in an effort to avoid the shoulder problems that plagued him last season.
Hanson described the change as “not drastic, but definitely different” and the Braves are also hoping it makes him tougher for opponents to steal bases on after he allowed runners to go 30-for-33 last year.
Hanson told Mark Bowman of MLB.com that he previously felt like he was “throwing with all arm” and is “cutting out that pause” in his delivery. And so far at least Hanson hasn’t seen a dropoff in his velocity or movement with the new delivery, which is key considering how dominant he’s been when healthy with the old setup.
Through early July last year Hanson had a 2.44 ERA, .190 opponents’ batting average, and 109/35 K/BB ratio in 103 innings, but he then allowed 24 runs in his next 27 innings before being shut down in mid-August.
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.