Last night we learned that the Orioles were awarded the claim on Twins left fielder Josh Willingham, giving them until Friday to work out a potential deal, and now they’ve claimed another right-handed bat.
Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports that the Orioles were awarded the claim on Mariners left fielder Michael Morse, who’s similar to Willingham in that he’s terrible defensively and has good power. One key difference is that Morse is an impending free agent, whereas Willingham is signed for $7 million next season. And generally speaking Morse hasn’t been as good as Willingham, although they’ve both struggled with production and injuries this year.
Obviously the Orioles would like to add another bat for the stretch run and it’s a smart approach to claim multiple, similar hitters to give themselves some options if the demands for one prove too costly. Seattle could always pull back Morse and keep him, like they did with Kendrys Morales, although getting anything they can in return for him would seemingly be the easy call.
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.