Stud prospect Oscar Taveras was demoted back to the minors on June 13 after struggling in his 11-game debut with the Cardinals, but the team just announced that he’s been recalled from Triple-A.
Taveras homered in his first big-league game, but went on to hit just .189 with a 7/2 K/BB ratio and .522 OPS overall. He wasn’t great at Triple-A following the demotion, hitting .292 with one homer and a .775 OPS in 13 games, but Taveras has been a monster in the minors overall this season and at age 22 he’s one of the truly elite prospects in baseball.
When the Cardinals sent Taveras down earlier this month they did so because they didn’t want him wasting away on the bench for a team that had plenty of outfield depth to go around, but now manager Mike Matheny seems willing to cut into Allen Craig’s playing time in right field. Craig has hit just .255 with six homers and a .673 OPS in 81 games after posting an .850 OPS from 2010-2013, and limiting him mostly to starts versus left-handed pitchers while using the left-handed-hitting Taveras versus right-handers would make some sense.
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.