Scott Kazmir appears to be the front-runner for Cleveland’s fifth starter spot

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I noted the general enthusiasm surrounding Scott Kazmir when I was at Indians camp last week. Now a guy who is at Indians camp every day notes that this enthusiasm has grown to the point where, in his view, the fifth starter’s spot on the Tribe is Kazmir’s to lose. Sheldon Ocker of the Akron Beacon-Journal:

Francona has offered few hints as to which way he is leaning, if he’s leaning at all. The only clue that he might favor one pitcher over another is his continuous glowing praise for Kazmir, virtually from the first time he threw a ball in camp. And Kazmir certainly seems like the front-runner, even if one disregards Francona’s tributes.

One just needs to look at the numbers. Kazmir has pitched three times in exhibition games and one B-game against minor leaguers. He hasn’t allowed any runs and his peripherals look solid. Granted it hasn’t all been against top opposition, but his velocity and control looks good.

Kazmir could flame out again and, if he does, the Indians haven’t really lost a thing. But if he’s even an average starter in 2013 it’s a huge boon to them. And to him too.

 

Zack Cozart thinks the way the Rays have been using Sergio Romo is bad for baseball

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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.