There’s more than a week of games left in the Cactus and Grapefruit leagues, but that’s not stopping the A’s and the Mariners from kicking off the regular season tomorrow. Yup, early, early tomorrow morning — at least on U.S. time — Seattle and Oakland will play a game that counts in the standings and the stat leaderboards. And a second one on Thursday. They’re in Tokyo, of course.
Personally, I don’t mind that the season is starting in Tokyo. A ballpark is a ballpark and even if it’s not in this country, it’s still baseballs thrown in real anger. I do take issue, however, with it starting while there are still tons of meaningless spring training games to be played. It’s just … disorienting.
Opening Day should mark the unequivocal beginning of something. A loud shout that baseball is here and all is, once again, right with the world. It shouldn’t feel like a soft opening at some new restaurant. And that’s kind of how I feel about the A’-s Mariners series.
Yes, I’ll pay attention. And I’ll even write up a couple of And That Happeneds for the games seeing as though they actually count. But don’t expect me to gt all Opening Day-y about it, because it doesn’t feel quite right.
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.