A few weeks after acquiring Heath Bell, the Diamondbacks made another addition to their bullpen on Tuesday, picking up lefty Matt Reynolds from the Diamondbacks for infielder Ryan Wheeler.
Reynolds, 28, had a nice debut with the Rockies in 2010 but was pretty mediocre since, amassing a 4.09 ERA in 2011 and a 4.40 ERA in 2011. While he’s been used primarily as a specialist, he’s only been a bit better against lefties (.262/.309/.459) than righties (.259/.323/.506) in his career. The Diamondbacks are apparently banking on the fact that he’s been quite a bit better on the road (.210/.290/.435) than in Coors Field (.294/.333/.514) in his career.
Wheeler, 24, came up this year and hit .239/.294/.339 with one homer in 109 at-bats for the Diamondbacks. He hit .351/.388/.572 in 362 at-bats for Triple-A Reno before his callup, but that was in a very friendly offensive environment. He hit .294/.358/.465 in Double-A in 2011.
Wheeler is a long shot to make it as a regular — his glove won’t be a big asset at third and he probably won’t have the bat for first — but he makes plenty of sense for a Rockies team that isn’t quite set at either corner infield position. Plus, now the team can find someone better than Reynolds for a specialist role, if it opts to carry a specialist at all.
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.