Former Major League Baseball players Roger Bernadina and Wilin Rosario are looking for their next big league gigs, according to reports by ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick. They spent the past season on different teams in the Korea Baseball Organization and, as Crasnick points out, may be looking to resuscitate their careers in the U.S. à la backup-outfielder-turned-slugger Eric Thames.
Bernadina, 33, debuted with the Nationals in 2008 and cycled through several stints with the Phillies, Reds and Dodgers before hanging up his cleats after the 2014 season. The veteran outfielder capped his seven-year career in the majors with a .236/.307/.354 batting line, 28 home runs and a cumulative 1.2 fWAR and made his rounds in the minors for several years before picking up a gig with the Kia Tigers during the 2016 offseason.
The new hitting environment transformed his production levels in 2017. Bernadina slashed .320/.372/.540 through 621 PA with the Tigers in 2017, tacking on a career-best 27 home runs, eight triples and a .913 OPS.
Rosario, 28, was also successful overseas. He had a couple of decent years with the Rockies during his five-year stint in the big leagues, but found himself out of a job once Nick Hundley joined the club. Prior to the 2016 season, he packed up his .273/.306/.473 batting line and 71 career home runs and signed on with the Hanwha Eagles. The catcher/first baseman found KBO much more to his liking, producing 70 total home runs and a .300+ average in each of his two seasons with the team.
No teams have come forward with offers yet, and there’s no guarantee that either Bernadina or Rosario will find a suitable landing place before the start of the 2018 season. Rosario tried to stage a comeback last winter, but his lackluster stats and underwhelming performance behind the dish limited his options, and he eventually re-upped with the Eagles instead.
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.