So far at least Kevin Youkilis has avoided the disabled list despite being out of the lineup tonight for the third straight game with a back injury, but in the meantime the Red Sox have called up shortstop prospect Jose Iglesias to provide some infield depth.
Youkilis is active but not available, so Boston demoted right-hander Junichi Tazawa to Triple-A to make room on the roster for Iglesias.
Nick Punto has been filling in for Youkilis at third base, so manager Bobby Valentine could decide to shift Mike Aviles to the hot corner instead and use the slick-fielding Iglesias at shortstop. Or maybe Iglesias will just hang around for a few days as bench insurance.
Valentine was full of praise for Iglesias during spring training, but the 22-year-old was hitting just .200 with a .485 OPS at Triple-A after posting similarly underwhelming numbers in Pawtucket last season. His defense is widely considered Gold Glove-caliber, but so far his bat hasn’t even been utility man-caliber.
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.