Sad to say, I saw this one coming a mile away.
Chris Snelling, who had pretty much the worst luck of any position prospect ever, hit a line-drive single for Australia in his first World Baseball Classic at-bat Saturday against Chinese Taipei starter Chien-Ming Wang and then immediately left the game with a leg injury.
Snelling was ranked by Baseball America as a top 100 prospect three times while making his way through the Mariners system and debuted in the majors as a 20-year-old in 2002. However, one injury after another prevented him from establishing himself. In all, he hit .244/.360/.400 in 225 major league at-bats from 2002-08. He last played in the United States in 2009, appearing in 19 games for the Pirates’ Triple-A club.
Australia is a long shot to advance in the World Baseball Classic, so even if Snelling’s latest injury proves minor, it seems doubtful that a U.S. audience will ever see him again.
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.