Alfredo Aceves was asked to eat some innings out of the bullpen Tuesday, but exited after facing just three batters and said afterward that he’s hurt. However, the next day manager John Farrell told reporters: “By all accounts that we have, he is not injured.”
This is just the latest drama in a very tense relationship between Aceves and the Red Sox and this time it led to the veteran right-hander being dropped from the 40-man roster. Aceves passed through waivers unclaimed, as none of the other 29 teams wanted anything to do with his $2.65 million contract, and he accepted the assignment to Triple-A because he wants to keep getting paid that money.
Aceves indicated to Evan Drellich of MassLive.com that he might not pitch again this season because the injury, which he described as a strained oblique muscle. Obviously if the Red Sox could have gotten anything in trade for Aceves they would have done it a long time ago and passing through waivers unclaimed means no teams were even willing to take him for nothing in return. If he’s truly hurt he likely has a legitimate beef about being sent to Triple-A rather than placed on the disabled list, but either way he may have pitched his last game for the Red Sox.
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.