In an attempt to lessen his chronic shoulder problems Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman is altering his throwing motion to avoid over-the-top throws. Zimmerman has done this occasionally in the past, on certain plays, but now he’s giving the three-quarters arm slot a full-time try.
Here’s what he told James Wagner of the Washington Post:
I’ve gone through this for awhile now, so you can’t get too relieved. It’s a constant work in progress. It’s tough. But for now, we found something that I think has a chance to work without hurting. So that’s a relief. Because I want to be out there and I want to help the team win. When I can’t do that, it’s frustrating.
Nationals manager Matt Williams, himself a third baseman, thinks it could work because Zimmerman’s new arm slot isn’t far off from Williams’ arm slot as a player.
Still, if Zimmerman is at the point where he’s having to manage pain on a daily basis, local media is reporting on how many pain-free throws he was able to make in pregame warmups, and literally every throw with his normal arm slot has a chance to turn into a major setback … well, it’s not a good situation. And, seemingly, not a long-term solution.
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.