As first reported by beat writer John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer, the Reds have activated right-hander Johnny Cueto from the 15-day disabled list. Pedro Villarreal was sent to Triple-A Louisville in a corresponding move to clear a 25-man roster spot.
Cueto will return to the Cincy starting rotation on Sunday afternoon for the Reds’ series finale with the Brewers. He wound up missing exactly 15 days (the minimum) because of a strained right lat muscle.
Tony Cingrani is going to stick around for Sunday’s game to back up Cueto, who did not make a rehab start and will probably be on some kind of pitch count in his return to action.
Cingrani will likely be shipped back to the Triple-A level early next week.
Cueto, 27, has an excellent 2.17 ERA, 0.88 WHIP and 34/13 K/BB ratio in 37 1/3 innings this season. Cincinnati is currently 3 1/2 games back of the Cardinals in the National League Central standings.
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.