Rangers put Tanner Scheppers in rotation, going with Joakim Soria at closer

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Today was decision day for the Rangers, as manager Ron Washington made some important calls about the composition of his pitching staff. Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports that Washington will put Tanner Scheppers in the rotation and transition Alexi Ogando into a set-up role. In turn, he has opted for Joakim Soria over Neftali Feliz for the closer role.

Scheppers entered spring training as a long shot to secure a rotation spot, but injuries to Derek Holland and Matt Harrison and a poor spring from Ogando opened the door. The 27-year-old right-hander has also pitched well during Cactus League play, posting a 3.07 ERA and 14/4 K/BB ratio over 14 2/3 innings. This includes an impressive outing yesterday. Scheppers, who had a a 1.88 ERA in 76 2/3 innings out of the Rangers bullpen last season, has only made 12 starts in pro ball, all of them in the minors. Despite the inexperience, the Rangers are willing to experiment.

Feliz was considered the early favorite to replace Joe Nathan at closer, but he has shown diminished velocity this spring while allowing four runs on 11 hits and one walk over eight innings. Meanwhile, Soria has allowed just two baserunners over six scoreless innings. Washington said that Feliz’s role is yet to be determined and that he’s still competing for a job.

Zack Cozart thinks the way the Rays have been using Sergio Romo is bad for baseball

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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.