Texas’ never-ending roster shuffling continues, as the Rangers have activated catcher Geovany Soto from the disabled list, called up catcher/first baseman J.P. Arencibia from Triple-A, and designated first baseman Carlos Pena for assignment.
Soto has missed the entire season following spring training knee surgery, but now figures to get the bulk of the playing time behind the plate over Robinson Chirinos.
Arencibia has been a career-long catcher, except he was horrible defensively and of late the Rangers have been using him as a first baseman at Triple-A. Which is fine, except he’s also a terrible hitter. He has 20-homer power, but Arencibia has hit .208 with a ghastly .255 on-base percentage and .655 OPS in 400 games through age 28, posting a hideous 415/77 K/BB ratio.
Pena was signed to a minor-league deal and then quickly promoted to the majors last month, but he hit .136 in 18 games and may simply be finished at age 36. Arencibia will presumably replace him in the lineup, but Arencibia as a regular first baseman could be one of the worst players in the league.
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.