Rookie closer Hector Santiago blows save, gets vote of confidence from Robin Ventura

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Robin Ventura did everything he could to avoid naming a closer, keeping the bullpen hierarchy secret right up until rookie Hector Santiago came in for the White Sox’s first save chance of the season.

But now that Santiago has hit his first rough patch, serving up two homers last night to blow a 4-2 lead on the way to a Chicago loss, Ventura made it very clear that he’s sticking with the 24-year-old left-hander:

You look back at all the guys that have done it. It’s not the easiest job. But you know, the way I look at it is how he bounces back. I have confidence in taking him right back out there and letting him do it tomorrow night.

Obviously one bad outing doesn’t mean anything, so it makes sense for Ventura to stick with Santiago, but the rookie’s track record suggests it’ll become clear soon enough that he might not even be one of the best three relievers in the White Sox’s bullpen and fellow rookie Addison Reed will be looming as a long-term closer alternative all season.

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.