UPDATE: Jackson won’t be headed to the bullpen, because he’s been placed on the disabled list with a strained lat muscle.
After signing a four-year, $52 million contract with the Cubs last offseason Edwin Jackson struggled last season and has now been a mess this year, giving him a combined 14-32 record and 5.47 ERA in 57 starts for Chicago.
That includes leading the league in losses both seasons and leading the league in runs allowed this year. And since getting his ERA under 5.00 in early July he’s gone 1-6 with an 8.52 ERA in nine starts, which is why the Cubs may be thinking about demoting Jackson to the bullpen.
And for his part Jackson handled questions about that possibility pretty well, telling Patrick Mooney of CSNChicago.com:
If it happens, it happens. I haven’t really gone out and made an easy decision for the organization or for the team. It’s one of those things where you just have to kind of take it in stride. Not going deep into games as a starter isn’t beneficial for the team, especially when you get paid to go deep into games. You have to deal with it as it comes. If it happens, it’s not the end of the world. You just have to continue to bust your butt and gain back what you feel you can do.
Jackson failed to make it out of the third inning Wednesday, coughing up seven runs as his ERA ballooned above 6.00, and afterward manager Rick Renteria said of his status: “We’re going to assess and evaluate and see where we go.”
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.