Angels manager Mike Scioscia said Saturday that Josh Hamilton — who has been sidelined because of an early-spring calf strain — was on track to make his Cactus League debut this week. It won’t happen.
Scioscia was asked again about Hamilton’s status on Tuesday in camp and told Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register that the veteran outfielder won’t be appearing in a game “until Sunday, at the earliest.” Hamilton is not yet in danger of missing any regular season action, but he’s losing important spring at-bats and field work as he tries to bounce back from his highly disappointing 2013 campaign.
Hamilton signed a five-year, $125 million free agent contract with the Angels last winter and then went on to post a career-low .739 OPS with just 21 home runs and 79 RBI in 151 games. He is owed a $17 million salary this season, a $25 million salary next season, and then $32 million salaries in 2016 and 2017.
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.