Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo defected earlier this year and is expected to sign with an MLB team shortly after a showcase on July 26 at the University of Miami. While scouts and executives from every team are expected to be on hand for the workout, Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com reports that Cubs, White Sox, Braves, and Giants are among the teams who have expressed interest.
Known for his plus-speed, Castillo is listed at 5-foot-9 and 185 pounds and hits from the right side of the plate. Sanchez notes that the 27-year-old has drawn comparisons to the likes of Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury and Kenny Lofton, though Ben Badler of Baseball America has written that there’s a split on whether he’ll be an everyday player or a fourth outfielder in the majors. Either way, if he signs quickly, there’s a chance we could see him before the end of the season.
Castillo was declared a free earlier this month and will be represented stateside by Jay Z’s Roc Nation Sports. Since he played five years in Cuba’s top professional league, he will not be subject to MLB’s international spending limit.
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.