Joe Maddon doesn't see relievers starting games becoming norm

ByJesse Rogers ESPN logo
Wednesday, May 23, 2018

CHICAGO -- Although he's known for thinking outside the box, Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon doesn't believe having a reliever start games is something that will catch on.

The Tampa Bay Rays tried the strategy this past weekend against the Los Angeles Angels, starting Sergio Romoon Saturday and Sunday with decent results. The Rays split the two games.

"That was done out of necessity," Maddon said Tuesday afternoon. "If you don't have enough starters that you like, you may choose to do something on a day, maybe two days. To see that becoming a part of the norm, I doubt it. If you want to do it that way, you would really have to nurture that in the minor leagues for a long time. I think you're going to wear out bullpen dudes if you're going to do something like that."

Romo pitched 1 innings in his start Sunday and was followed by three relievers, but on Saturday, he was relieved by starter Ryan Yarbrough after pitching a scoreless first inning. Yarbrough pitched the next 6 innings, and the Rays won 5-3.

"Because it worked, it becomes attractive," Maddon said. "Had it not worked, it would never have been talked about again. I don't think it's a method that will be utilized often. It can on occasion."

Maddon also said that though Yarbrough missed the top of the Angels' order in the first inning, he could have just as easily avoided it on the back end, allowing Romo to face the top of the order in a more important part of the game. The circumstances played out in favor of the Rays on Saturday, with Romo striking out the side in the first, but Maddon said he doesn't think the strategy could work in the long run, other than adding some energy to the team.

"It could have stirred up interest in the team," he said. "Like batting [Anthony] Rizzoleadoff. ... I would be very surprised it that were able to last."

Maddon also mentioned the conversations that managers would need to have with their veteran starters, who are used to preparing a certain way.

"Plus I don't want to tell Jon Lester, 'You're coming in the second,'" Maddon said with a smile. "I don't want to say, 'You'll be in there in the second inning, don't worry about it.'

"And definitely don't want to tell [former Cub] John Lackey that. That would be my worst nightmare right there. 'John, I was thinking about something. What do you think, brother?'"