This is the sort of thing that (a) you can’t exactly say is based in medical certainty; and (b) you know Major League Baseball doesn’t want players saying regardless, given how much juice they put behind their international opening series initiative. From the L.A. Times:
The Dodgers shortened their spring-training camp to the facilitate the trip, something one player blamed for Kershaw and Wilson’s health issues. The player, who did not want to be named, pointed out how the Arizona Diamondbacks, the other team that went to Australia, have also lost their No. 1 starter and setup man. The injuries to Patrick Corbin and David Hernandez of the Diamondbacks were severe; both recently underwent major elbow operations.
The Corbin case is particularly noteworthy, for it is the first time a major league pitcher has ever had to have Tommy John surgery in the history of baseball.
OK, to be fair, Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt was critical of how little time his pitchers were given to prepare for the season, and that could be a legitimate gripe. It’s at least something baseball should take a hard look at before scheduling overseas series in March again. That said, to the extent we’re actually attributing the injuries to the Australia trip with anything approaching certainty, we’re way off into crazy speculation land.
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.