A disappointing day for the Royals got worse late Thursday night, as the team discovered that first baseman Eric Hosmer could miss 3-4 weeks with a stress fracture in his hand.
It’s an especially poorly-timed injury with the trade deadline having just passed. Worse, the Royals recently traded Danny Valencia to the Blue Jays for catcher Erik Kratz, denying them their best fallback option at first base. They’ll most likely turn to Raul Ibanez for now. They could later explore a deal for Boston’s Mike Carp or Seattle’s Corey Hart once waivers go through.
Hosmer has had a disappointing year, but he was the Royals’ best player of late, hitting .377/.436/.551 with two homers in 21 games this month. Ibanez is hitting .209/.244/.372 in 43 at-bats since joining the Royals and .167/.255/.287 in 209 at-bats this year.
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.