Retiring captains Paul Konerko, Derek Jeter share mutual respect

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To say Paul Konerko respects Derek Jeter would be an understatement.

Konerko talked at length about the New York Yankees captain’s accomplishments before the White Sox and Yankees kicked off a four-game series on Thursday night.

Barring a postseason series, this will be Jeter’s last trip to U.S. Cellular Field, as he announced he would retire after 20 seasons at the end of 2014. Konerko clearly values Jeter’s achievements on the field. The shortstop has won five World Series rings and has 3,356 hits.

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But Konerko places just as much importance on how Jeter handled himself away from the diamond.

“He has had to do deal with the most and done it the best, with the most class, so for me, he’s No. 1 in my book when it comes to all that stuff,” Konerko said. “It’s definitely appreciated by myself and the players in the game. When a guy like that, as good as he is, and has everybody staring at him and looking at him for 20 years, you hope it falls into someone’s lap like his, that he handles it right and does right by it, and he’s never let anybody down. It’s really amazing. He might be the best ever when it comes to that.”

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Jeter has mutual admiration for Konerko, who also plans to retire at the end of 2014. The two have faced off for 16 seasons, and Jeter appreciates how Konerko has performed. Konerko, Jeter and Philadelphia’s Jimmy Rollins are the only current players in the majors to have at least 2,200 hits with the same team.

“I respect his game, how he handles himself,” Jeter said. “He’s had a lot of success in his career and a lot of success against us in his career. You enjoy competing against guys like that. I’ve gotten to know him a little bit throughout the years, and he’s had a wonderful career. I’ve always respected him.”

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.