Reds closer Aroldis Chapman retired both batters he faced in last night’s All-Star Game on a total of just five pitches, but while covering first base on Kyle Seager’s eighth-inning ground out he came up limping.
Chapman had trouble getting all the way to first base and then walked off the field very gingerly, telling reporters afterward that he tweaked a right hamstring injury that has been giving him problems for a while now:
I’m not 100 percent ready to run full speed. I kind of hesitated a little bit and I just kind of took it easy to go to first. I will be fine. I’ve been pitching through it for a while. As long as I don’t have to run, it feels good to pitch.
Mark Sheldon of MLB.com reports that Chapman suffered the initial injury on July 6 while shagging balls in the outfield before the game. Since then he’s thrown five scoreless innings while allowing one hit and striking out 13 of the 18 batters he’s faced. So yeah, I’d say he’s been doing OK pitching through the injury.
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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.