Tampa Bay Rays to again start relief pitchers in series vs. Baltimore Orioles


The Tampa Bay Rays are taking their bullpen “opener” theory to the next level, starting relievers in all three games this weekend against the Baltimore Orioles.

The Rays used Sergio Romo as an opener instead of a closer in two games last weekend, starting the veteran reliever Saturday and Sunday against the Los Angeles Angels. Romo, who had never started a game before, pitched an inning Saturday before ceding to traditional starter Ryan Yarbrough. He went two innings Sunday. The Rays split the games.

This weekend, Romo will start Friday’s and Sunday’s games at Tropicana Field, and Ryne Stanek will get the Saturday start. They will likely be followed by “starters” Yarbrough, Anthony Banda and Austin Pruitt.

“Hey guys, I’m starting again,” a smiling Romo told reporters Thursday. “It’s fun. We’re trying to win ballgames. I’m going to try and do my best to make them look like geniuses.”

Rays manager Kevin Cash explained last week that the move allows a reliever like Romo to get the first shot at a lineup’s heavy hitters, giving the would-be starters an advantage on their second and third times through the lineup.

“We’re not trying to do anything that’s cute,” Cash said. “We’re trying to do something that’s right for us to win games.”

Last Saturday, Romo struck out the side in the first inning, dispatching Angels third baseman Zack Cozart, center fielder Mike Trout and left fielder Justin Upton. On Sunday, in his two innings, he struck out Trout, Upton, Jefry Marte and Chris Young before giving way to Matt Andriese in the third.

Cozart wasn’t a fan of the strategy.

“It was weird. It’s bad for baseball, in my opinion,” he said. “It’s spring training. That’s the best way to explain it.”

Like the Angels, the Orioles have heavy-hitting right-handers at the top of the lineup in Trey Mancini, Adam Jones, Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop.

The Rays, already thin in the starting pitching ranks, lost right-hander Jake Faria to an oblique injury on Tuesday. He is expected to be out at least six to eight weeks.

Nathan Eovaldi, who hurt his surgically repaired right elbow in his last spring training start, is expected to join the rotation next Monday or Tuesday after coming back from a procedure to remove loose bodies in the elbow that has undergone two Tommy John surgeries.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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