Kenley Jansen was hospitalized in Denver earlier this week due to an irregular heartbeat. He missed a month last season with the very same issue and he’ll soon find out whether his recent scare will cost him the rest of the season.
According to Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times, Jansen threw a 25-pitch bullpen session on Friday and plans to play catch today. He’s scheduled to see a heart specialist on Tuesday, who will tell him whether he must continue taking a a blood-thinning medication. His medication prevents clots and strokes, but can also cause severe bleeding. He could bleed to death if he was struck by a baseball, so he isn’t even allowed to sit in the dugout while taking the medication.
If Jansen is cleared by the specialist, he could pitch again as soon as next Friday against the Giants. However, if he is instructed to continue taking the medication, he will not be allowed to throw for four weeks. That would essentially end his season.
Health obviously comes first here, but it’s still a tough break for Jansen, who stepped into the closer role at the end of April and has a 2.54 ERA and 86/19 K/BB ratio over 56 1/3 innings this season. Brandon League and Ronald Belisario are expected to split save chances during his absence.
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.