Royals’ right-hander Ian Kennedy will not opt out of his contract, according to a report from FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman. It’s a no-brainer for Kennedy, who mulled over the decision in September and eventually told reporters, “It would be pretty stupid if I did [opt out].” He still has three years and $49 million guaranteed with the club, which would take him through his age-35 season in 2020.
There’s little incentive for the right-hander to test the free agent market after putting up some career-worst numbers in 2017. After weathering a hamstring strain and some lingering shoulder tightness, Kennedy finished the season with a 5-13 record in 30 starts, earning the unenviable distinction of earning the fewest wins in the most starts since the Orioles’ Kevin Millwood posted a 4-16 record in 2010. (Granted, pitcher wins mean next to nothing, but this still isn’t a club you want to find yourself in.) That wasn’t just the result of the Royals going 80-82 in 2017, however — he also racked up a 5.38 ERA, 3.6 BB/9 and 7.7 SO/9 through 154 innings with the team.
The Royals have yet to confirm the report.
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.