UPDATE: Dan Hayes of CSNChicago.com reports that Sale will be placed on the disabled list. He was diagnosed with a flexor muscle strain, but the good news is that an MRI showed no ligament damage. The hope is that he won’t have to miss more than 15 days.
6:13 p.m. ET: Dan Hayes of CSNChicago.com brings some potentially troubling news about White Sox left-hander Chris Sale:
Andre Rienzo is likely to fill in tomorrow night against the Tigers and Justin Verlander.
For all the concerns about Sale’s build and delivery, he has never been on the disabled list in his career. However, he was given a 10-day break from the rotation two years ago when the White Sox attempted to move him into the closer role. They reversed course after just one relief appearance. He also missed one start last season due to left shoulder tendinitis. The White Sox will have to hope that this is just a blip.
Sale, 25, is 3-0 with a 2.30 ERA and 29/7 K/BB ratio in 27 1/3 innings over his first four starts this season. He threw a career-high 214 1/3 innings last year.
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.