BY DAN GREENSPAN
ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Tampa Bay Rays reliever Sergio Romo played 11 seasons before making his first major league start.
Not even 24 hours later, Romo will make his second.
Romo will start for the second consecutive day in the finale of a four-game series against the Los Angeles Angels on Sunday, Rays manager Kevin Cash said following a 5-3 win on Saturday night.
“I’m sure it will be talked about, but hopefully it works,” Cash said.
Romo struck out all three batters he faced in the first inning, using 18 pitches to fan Zack Cozart, Mike Trout and Justin Upton.
Cash said Romo would have continued pitching if not for Daniel Robertson’s grand slam in the second inning. Instead, Cash decided to take advantage of the 4-0 lead and immediately turn to rookie left-hander Ryan Yarbrough, who gave up one run in 6 1/3 innings.
Cash’s plan going into the game was to minimize the number of times Yarbrough would have to face the heart of an Angels’ lineup heavy on right-handed batters.
“Try not to read too much into it, but it did go really, really well with Romo’s performance,” Cash said. “Once we got the lead, wanted to get him out and hand the ball off to Yarbs so he could kind of get comfortable. But I was really impressed with Sergio, the way he handled everything, because he might not admit to it but that’s totally different. It’s totally different than what he’s ever been accustomed to and he adjusted to it. Threw strikes, opened the game with a slider, so it was just like he was pitching in the ninth inning.”
The approach Sunday will likely have a similar look, with Romo throwing one or two innings before the Rays turn to another pitcher. In this case, it could be left-handed starter Anthony Banda, who is 2-3 with a 5.96 ERA, though right-handed relievers Matt Andriese and Austin Pruitt might be options.
“We’ll just kind of see how the first inning, first two innings play out,” Cash said.
Romo will become the first pitcher to start on back-to-back days since Zack Greinke did so for the Milwaukee Brewers on July 7-8, 2012, when he threw only four pitches in the first outing before being ejected. According to ESPN, Oakland’s Steve McCatty was the last to start a second straight day after pitching at least an inning of the first, on April 14-15, 1980.
The Rays, who have won six in a row and 18 of their last 26, have relied on their bullpen to carry them through a handful of games already this season because of injuries to their rotation. Cash seems intent on taking that idea to the extreme, and after being rewarded on Saturday, he wants to try his luck again.
As unorthodox as it might seem, Yarbrough said there were benefits to coming out of the bullpen instead of starting.
“It was kind of a nice feeling where there’s no thinking involved. It’s just get ready and go out there,” Yarbrough said.
For his part, Romo seems to be settling into the mindset of a starter already.
“The way it worked out, Sergio is pumped,” Cash said. “I don’t think he’s here anymore, so he left to get his rest and get ready to throw one or two innings.”
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