Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp made his second rehab start with Rancho Cucamonga yesterday, but still doesn’t feel comfortable yet, reports Bill Shaikin. Kemp has been sidelined since July 22 with a sprained ankle.
The hope was that Kemp would make a few rehab starts and be ready to return to the Dodgers after this weekend, but it sounds like Kemp will need some more time. He is 0-for-8 thus far and has driven a ball out of the infield on only one occasion.
Kemp, the runner-up to Ryan Braun in the 2011 NL MVP balloting, has been on the disabled list three times this season. The first, between May 30 and June 25, was due to a strained right hamstring. The second, between July 6-21, was due to inflammation of the AC joint in his right shoulder. The third, of course, is the continuing issue with the ankle. When he has been on the field, he posted a .700 OPS in 251 trips to the plate.
Manager Don Mattingly said that, when Kemp returns, he will not be used on an everyday basis.
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.