Rays' starting reliever experiment falls flat in loss to Orioles

The Tampa Bay Rays’ much-ballyhooed experiment to use reliever Sergio Romo to open games didn’t work out well Friday, as the Orioles opened their three-game weekend series at Tropicana Field.

Romo made his third “start” for the Rays on Friday – he’s also scheduled to start Sunday – but received a quick hook after the Orioles scored the first run of the game five batters into their eventual 2-0 win over Tampa Bay.

Danny Valencia hit a two-out RBI double off Romo to give the Orioles a 1-0 lead, a hit that followed Adam Jones’ one-out single and Jonathan Schoop reaching on a strikeout that ended with a wild pitch.

Romo was pulled after just 14 pitches.

“Everyone knows him and everybody knows what he’s going to do,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “He does a good job and that’s why he still here. But Danny had a big hit, I think he had a home run off him before. And Adam had a couple hits off of him.”

The Rays’ new strategy, which they use primarily against right-handed-heavy batting orders like the Orioles’, makes Romo responsible for three to six outs before handing the game off to another pitcher. Romo had been used as a seventh- and eight-inning setup man for the season’s first six weeks.

Tampa Bay is also planning to start hard-throwing right-handed reliever Ryne Stanek on Saturday. All 27 of Stanek’s previous major league appearances have come in relief.

“It’s new,” Schoop said. “It’s new seeing it. But it’s the same thing because you [are going] to see him later on in the game. But if he’s going to start the game and throw one inning, you know you’re going to face him just one time. It’s a little bit new, but tomorrow we’ve got the same thing with someone else, so we’ve got to forget about it and just go out there and compete.”

On Friday, the Rays flipped the Orioles lineup around by inserting left-hander Ryan Yarbrough, who came into the game after Valencia’s double to face left-handed-hitting first baseman Chris Davis, who grounded out to third to end the inning.

Showalter was prepared for that, and indicated before Friday’s game that he was tempted to tweak his lineup to account for it. Yarbrough pitched well in relief, limiting the Orioles to just one run — Schoop’s solo homer in the sixth — over seven innings, striking out out eight, walking none and scattering seven hits.

“We spent most of our time [in the advance meeting] on Yarbrough,” Showalter said. “Maybe we should have shortened it up and done it the other way around because Yarbrough was really good. He’s a good-looking pitcher.”

Romo had made his previous two starts last weekend when the Rays were in Anaheim, Calif., playing the Los Angeles Angels, another predominantly right-handed lineup. He tossed a perfect first inning, with three strikeouts in his first start May 19 and struck out three and walked two in a 1 1/3-inning scoreless outing the following day.

eencina@baltsun.com

twitter.com/EddieInTheYard

Copyright © 2018, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad
48°