It’s been a rough go for closers in 2012

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Opening Day isn’t even over yet — only 13 games are in the books as of this writing — yet we’ve already seen three blown saves, two from very unlikely sources. The joke yesterday that this might be The Year of the Pitcher again. It doesn’t, however, look like it will be The Year of the Closer.

Let’s run it down:

NY Yankees: Mariano Rivera – future HOF takes blown save, loss in debut
Detroit: Jose Valverde – After going 49-for-49 in 2011, blows save in opener
Cleveland: Chris Perez – Blows three-run lead in ninth, Indians lose in 16
Chi Cubs: Carlos Marmol – Lost opener after entering tie game

And, of course, one-sixth of baseball’s closers are currently on the disabled list:

Boston: Andrew Bailey (thumb surgery, out 3-5 months)
Cincinnati: Ryan Madson (Tommy John surgery, out for season)
Kansas City: Joakim Soria (Tommy John surgery, out for season)
Tampa Bay: Kyle Farnsworth (elbow strain, out 4-6 wks)
Washington: Drew Storen (sore elbow, out 2 weeks)

So, maybe the eighth inning is a lot easier after all. Unless you’re Kerry Wood.

Zack Cozart thinks the way the Rays have been using Sergio Romo is bad for baseball

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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.