Alex Rodriguez hit his first homer of the season off Angels right-hander Ervin Santana, moving into a tie with former teammate Ken Griffey Jr. for fifth place on the all-time list with 630 career homers.
The homer also snapped a career-long RBI drought for Rodriguez, who failed to drive in a run in any of the Yankees’ first six games. And now, just like that, he has an .827 OPS that’s right in line with his 2010 and 2011 production.
The Yankees went on to win their home opener 5-0.
Next up for Rodriguez on the all-time homer list? Well, it’ll be a while before he moves up another spot:
Barry Bonds 762
Hank Aaron 755
Babe Ruth 714
Willie Mays 660
ALEX RODRIGUEZ 630
Ken Griffey Jr. 630
Sammy Sosa 609
Jim Thome 604
During the past three seasons Rodriguez has averaged 32 homers per 150 games, so he’ll need to stay healthy and avoid any further decline to potentially move past Willie Mays by the end of the year.
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.