Astros call up former top prospect Fernando Martinez

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Fernando Martinez was once considered one of the game’s top hitting prospects, but the Astros were able to pluck him off waivers in January after the Mets essentially gave up on him. Now he’s in line to get regular playing time in the major leagues.

Prior to tonight’s game, the Astros placed outfielder Travis Buck on the disabled list with an Achilles injury and recalled Martinez from Triple-A Oklahoma City.

Martinez’s star has faded in recent years due to a chronic knee injury and poor production in the minor leagues, but it probably didn’t help that he was needlessly rushed through the Mets’ minor league system. While it feels like he’s been around forever, it’s easy to forget that he’s just 23 years old. Fortunately for the Astros, Martinez has actually been both healthy and productive this season, batting .319/.374/.532 with eight homers, 38 RBI and a .906 OPS through 51 games at the Triple-A level.

Astros manager Brad Mills told Brian McTaggart of MLB.com that Martinez is not being called up to sit on the bench. Sure enough, he’s starting in right field and batting sixth tonight against the Reds. While Martinez may never deliver on the hype attached to him as a “teenage hitting machine,” he’s a worthy gamble for the rebuilding Astros.

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.