Tampa Bay Rays manager Kevin Cash’s unconventional decision to use a back-of-the-bullpen reliever to start the team’s game worked so well on Saturday that he plans to do it again Sunday.
“I’m sure it will be talked about, but hopefully it works,” Cash said.
Romo struck out the side on 18 pitches in his only inning of work Saturday before giving the ball to rookie left-hander Ryan Yarbrough. Yarbrough (4-2) earned the win after allowing one run over 6⅓ innings in the Rays’ 5-3 victory.
Cash was impressed with how Romo handled the temporary transition from reliever to starter, a mindset that apparently didn’t take long to change.
“The way it worked out, Sergio is pumped,” Cash said. “He treated himself like a starter. I don’t think he’s here anymore, so he left to get his rest and get ready to throw one or two innings.”
Romo, 35, had 588 career appearances before Saturday. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the only players in MLB history with more career appearances at the time of their first career start were Troy Percival (638), Todd Jones (632) and Chuck McElroy (603).
According to ESPN Stats & Information, Romo would be the first pitcher to start games on back-to-back days since Zack Greinke did so for the Milwaukee Brewers on July 7-8, 2012. Greinke was ejected after throwing four pitches and facing two batters on July 7.
The last pitcher to start on back-to-back days after throwing at least one inning the first day was Steve McCatty of the Oakland Athletics, doing so on April 14-15, 1980. On April 14, he took the loss after allowing five runs on four hits and three walks over 1⅓ innings and facing 14 batters. He came back out on April 15 and picked up the win after allowing three runs off seven hits over 8⅓ innings of work.
Cash said his reasoning for the unusual use of pitchers is that it throws the right-hander-heavy Angels lineup for a loop and, in the case of Saturday, allowed Yarbrough to miss at least one go-around against Los Angeles’ Zack Cozart, Mike Trout and Justin Upton.
“It allows us, in theory, to let Sergio to come in there and play the matchup game in the first, which is somewhat unheard of — up until Saturday, anyway,” Cash said Thursday.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.