Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers was on a media conference call a little while ago and he confirmed what Rosenthal’s sources were telling him about how the Dbacks really just want a Kirk Gibson-like, gritty player.”
Asked about grittiness, here is what Towers said:
“That’s the way Gibby played the game … That’s how we won in 2011 … Justin was a part of that team. We kind of like that gritty, hard-nosed player. I’m not saying Justin isn’t that type.”
But, in reality, he actually did, noting how Upton’s “body language” didn’t really please everyone, and stressing how the players he got back from the Braves were, in fact, “gritty.”
This is all such silliness. It makes me think that either (a) Kevin Towers is off his rocker; or (b) there is really some specific, deeper problem between Upton and the Dbacks and, in an effort to make it sound like merely a bad fit, Towers is allowing himself to traffic in the silly “gritty” stuff. Probably worth noting that Towers has not, historically, been off his rocker, so maybe he’s just trying too hard not to say something bad about Justin Upton and is doing a poor job of it.
But as for grit, I don’t know what’s more gritty than a player getting so mad at the other team scoring a run that he literally throws a trash can, and the only player involved in this trade who I have ever seen do that is Justin Upton.
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.