Ryan Zimmerman has been playing left field for the Nationals since coming off the disabled list last week, but manager Matt Williams made it clear that he’ll return to third base once Bryce Harper is ready to come off the disabled list himself.
Here’s what Williams told Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post:
We got a pretty good outfielder hopefully coming back really soon. The perfect world is, Zim would go back to third, where he’s played a long time and won a Gold Glove. And when Harp’s ready, Harp will play left. That’s the plan.
Of course, “coming back really soon” in Harper’s case means early July, so it’ll be several more weeks still until it’s an actual issue for the Nationals. Zimmerman moving back to third base would also mean Anthony Rendon moving back to second base and Danny Espinosa going to the bench.
However, it may not be quite that simple because, as Kilgore writes, Zimmerman has seemed very happy with his move to the outfield and has hinted that there’s some reason to doubt if his chronic shoulder problems can still handle third base regularly. Something tells me this whole thing won’t go exactly as Williams’ “plan” suggests.
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.