Mets catcher Travis d’Arnaud was demoted to the minors two weeks ago after hitting just .180 in 39 games (and .202 in 31 games as a rookie last season), but now he’s taking his frustration out on Triple-A pitchers in a huge way.
Las Vegas and the Pacific Coast League are admittedly very hitter-friendly environments and two weeks is admittedly a very small sample size, but d’Arnaud has hit .432 with six homers, six doubles, and 15 RBIs in 11 games. That works out to a .479 on-base percentage, .977 slugging percentage, and 1.456 OPS.
d’Arnaud has always hit well in the minors and also put up huge numbers at Las Vegas last season, but what he’s doing there right now is … damn. There’s already some speculation that the Mets plan to recall d’Arnaud from Triple-A at some point next week, which goes against the initial reports that they planned to keep him in the minors for a while. I guess a 1.456 OPS will sway some opinions.
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.