Indians closer Chris Perez has a reputation for being a colorful, say-anything-at-any-time kind of guy. But you know what? Even though that wears well enough on a winning team, it wears awfully on a losing team. Just take his post game interview from yesterday:
Reporter: How have you managed to stay sharp between save opportunities?
Perez: “I’ve had a lot of practice this year …
… Reporter: What’s been your routine because you wouldn’t expect to go six, seven or eight games between save opportunities?
Perez: “Have you watched us this year? We haven’t been in seven or eight games in a row.”
Truth? Sure. But when a closer talks about his team not being in games so that he hasn’t had save opportunities, I can’t imagine his teammates appreciate it.
And keep in mind: this is a Chris Perez who has decided not to say much to the media as the season ends due to some other recent controversial comments. Indeed, he ended this interview by saying “It will be a fun last couple of days of the season when I’m allowed to talk again.”
I imagine his teammates figure he already talks too much.
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.