Aroldis Chapman likely to face live hitters Wednesday

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Aroldis Chapman is about to face his most important test yet in his recovery from facial fractures, as John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports that the hard-throwing left-hander will likely throw live batting practice Wednesday.

Chapman threw 45 pitches Sunday in a bullpen session, so the Reds want to make sure he feels good before committing to a specific day. However, if he goes ahead and pitches on Wednesday as planned, Reds manager Bryan Price believes that the next step could be a minor league rehab assignment.

“He’s increased 10 pitches incrementally,” Reds manager Bryan Price said. “He’s thrown all his pitches — fastball, slider, change. There’s really no concern at this point in time that his arm and body aren’t ready to pitch.

“But it’s like anything else: He threw (Sunday) we’ve got to see how he responds. I would say it’s likely that he throws Wednesday in live batting practice. But if there’s any concern, we would push it back.”

Chapman suffered fractures above his left eye and nose when he was hit in the face by a comebacker off the bat of Royals catcher Salvador Perez on March 19. He needed surgery to have a plate inserted in his forehead.

The Reds are using the recently-activated Jonathan Broxton as their fill-in closer right now, but Chapman could be ready to return by mid-May if all goes well.

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.