Phillies starter Roy Halladay tossed two and one-third innings against the New York Yankees this afternoon, allowing one run on a walk and three hits. Although his command was not as pinpoint as the baseball world is used to, Halladay looked very sharp at times and his fastball stayed in the high-80’s, low-90’s area. During an injury-plagued season last year, in which he finished with a 4.49 ERA, Halladay lost about two miles per hour on his fastball (down to 90 from 92) which he is hoping to recover by the time the regular season rolls around.
Halladay said, aside from the injuries, the thing that bothered him most last year was pitching after sitting in the dugout when the Phillies — who finished eighth in the National League with 684 runs scored — put together a long offensive rally.
“The up-and-downs and the long innings got me more than anything. So physically I feel real good, and strength-wise I feel good. Really, I feel like now it’s a matter of more regular Spring Training, just fine-tuning those pitches, getting comfortable.”
The Phillies scored five or more runs in 11 of his 25 starts last year, averaging 4.87 runs of support in total according to Baseball Reference. That matched the run support given to Cole Hamels (4.86) and vastly outpaced that given to Cliff Lee (3.53) and Kyle Kendrick (3.83).
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.