Gordon Beckham was the eighth overall pick in the 2008 draft after a standout college career at Georgia, made quick work of the minors before debuting for the White Sox in mid-2009 at age 22, and hit .270 with an .808 OPS as a rookie.
He looked like a potential star and at the very least a long-term building block for the White Sox, but in two-plus seasons and 289 total games since then he’s hit just .237. And it’s getting worse, as his OPS dropped from .808 to .695 to .633, and so far this season Beckham is 3-for-26 (.115) with 11 strikeouts.
Hitting coach Jeff Manto told Bruce Levine of ESPN Chicago that he’s working with Beckham to correct some poor mechanics:
What we are trying to do with him is slow his body down. He is really anxious right now. He is charging into balls and just mis-hitting them. The way we slow him down is keep him tall and make him believe what he has now is enough.
Levine notes that Manto was hired in part because general manager Ken Williams felt the team, and specifically Beckham, needed to hear a new voice after working with former hitting coach Greg Walker for so long. Low expectations for the White Sox in general and the lack of a top prospect waiting in the wings at second base should give Beckham a pretty long leash, but Manto definitely has a tough case on his hands.
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.