Ricky Romero finally created some reason for optimism on August 28 when he tossed seven innings of two-run ball against the Yankees, striking out six and walking two in what was arguably his best start since April.
And then yesterday he threw away whatever progress he’d made and then some by failing to make it out of the second inning against the Rays while coughing up seven runs.
The loss left Romero with a 5.85 ERA in 28 starts, which includes nearly as many walks (90) as strikeouts (110) in 163 innings and is a far cry from the often-dominant lefty who posted a 2.92 ERA last season.
In his last 13 outings Romero is 0-12 with a 7.98 ERA and yesterday the home crowd in Toronto booed him off the field, yet manager John Farrell continues to insist that the Blue Jays have no plans to shut him down.
After the game, Romero told reporters: “Going through something like this I’d never wish upon anyone.”
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.