Rafael Soriano is among the various players “snubbed” from the All-Star game, which apparently upset the Nationals closer and quite a few of his teammates, but if MLB decides to select him as a last-minute injury replacement Soriano plans to turn them down.
James Wagner of the Washington Post describes Soriano as being “confused” by the snub and here’s how the closer described his feelings:
In this job, nothing is given. What I’ve got, I’ve earned. No one has given it to me. Things are not given. The all-star game isn’t given to anyone. There are some pitchers who can’t pitch because they have to pitch on Sunday. I’m not going anymore. If the manager comes and tells me tomorrow, I’ll say I’m not going because I don’t want to be given anything. Things are not given, they’re earned. And if it’s by numbers, look up at the numbers of all the closers. Where am I? I’ll go home and spend three, four days there and I’ll forget about this.
Odds are pretty decent that Soriano would have been chosen as a replacement, since injuries and pitching schedules knock numerous players out of the mix every year in the days leading up to the game. Seemingly half of the “snubs” end up getting in anyway.
Soriano is certainly deserving of an All-Star spot with a 1.00 ERA and 33/11 K/BB ratio in 36 innings to go with a decade-long track record of excellence, but tons of relievers have great first halves every year and more so than any other position/role the competition is fierce. And spending a few days at home in the Dominican Republic with his family isn’t the worst thing ever.
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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.