The Nationals will call up prospect right-hander Nate Karns to start Tuesday against the Orioles, reports Mark Zuckerman of CSNWashington.com. He’ll fill the rotation spot of Ross Detwiler, who has been dealing with a right oblique strain for well over a week and was finally placed on the disabled list yesterday.
Karns only has nine starts above the High-A level, so facing the powerful Orioles’ lineup will be a big test, but the Nationals are willing to roll the dice with him rather than give another start to Zach Duke. Meanwhile, Chris Young has really struggled at Triple-A and Ross Ohlendorf just pitched for the Chiefs on Saturday and would be on short rest for the assignment.
Shoulder problems caused Karns to drop to the 12th round back in 2009, but he owns a 2.70 ERA and 262 strikeouts over 216 1/3 innings in the minors. After being named the Nationals’ minor league pitcher of the year in 2012, the 25-year-old owns a 4.60 ERA and 55/18 K/BB ratio in 45 innings across nine starts in Double-A this season. While he has averaged 4.1 BB/9 in the minors, he has shown improved control as he has worked his way up the organizational ladder.
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.