The final AL All-Star balloting update before the teams are set

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There’s still time to vote, but if it ended now, the AL All-Star team would look like so.

The only change to a starter over last week’s results: Robinson Cano taking over first place at second base from Ian Kinsler. Downballot, we see A-Rod passing Evan Longoria for third place at third base, a flip-flop of Nelson Cruz and Adam Jones at 4-5 among outfielders and Adam Dunn passing Raul Ibanez for third place among DH’s. So it’s mostly ho-hum.

CATCHER
Mike Napoli, Rangers: 3,008,228
Joe Mauer, Twins: 1,772,228
Matt Wieters, Orioles: 1,623,459

FIRST BASE
Prince Fielder, Tigers: 2,825,532
Paul Konerko, White Sox: 2,261,388
Mark Teixeira, Yankees: 1,863,873

SECOND BASE
Robinson Cano, Yankees: 3,559,290
Ian Kinsler, Rangers: 3,462,367
Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox: 1,666,282

THIRD BASE
Adrian Beltre, Rangers: 3,073,541
Miguel Cabrera, Tigers: 2,692,047
Alex Rodriguez, Yankees: 1,748,534

SHORTSTOP
Derek Jeter, Yankees: 4,407,982
Elvis Andrus, Rangers: 2,764,888
J.J. Hardy, Orioles: 1,331,927

OUTFIELD
Josh Hamilton, Rangers: 7,310,824
Curtis Granderson, Yankees: 3,812,339
Jose Bautista, Blue Jays: 2,773,442
Nelson Cruz, Rangers: 2,681,019
Adam Jones, Orioles: 2,633,259
David Murphy, Rangers: 1,738,805

DH
David Ortiz, Red Sox: 3,128,711
Michael Young, Rangers: 2,564,572
Adam Dunn: 1,436,643

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.