Pitch imperfect: Why more Cubs non-pitchers on way to mound originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
Had enough of position players pitching in games across the majors this year?
Then sucks for you. And Cubs manager David Ross.
“I’ve seen all I want to see from my end,” Ross said.
Starting Monday — barring an 11th-hour reprieve that kicks the can down the road again — MLB rosters finally will be limited to the 13-pitcher maximum that originally was to go into effect in 2020.
For teams such as the Cubs, that means reducing the size of the bullpen from nine relievers to eight by game time Monday.
And while that might not seem like a big difference, we’ve already seen enormous numbers of position players used these past two seasons (and going back to the year or two before the pandemic) to pitch late innings of blowouts.
That includes at least five times this year that teams used a non-pitcher in the ninth for the final outs of a victory (thanks to Jayson Stark’s “weird” column for this).
“I could have made that [seen-enough] comment earlier and I refrained from it,” said Ross, who has used position players four times already this year in blowouts to save wear and tear on pitchers. “You’re not going to waste pitching [in blowout losses].”
With the rare exception of defined “two-way” players such Shohei Ohtani, position players are allowed to pitch only in extra innings or when the margin in the game exceeds five runs.
Beyond the potential uptick in Frank Schwindel/Andrelton Simmons appearances on the mound, Ross said he expects Monday’s pitching limit put an emphasis on multi-inning relievers in bullpens and “the importance of matching up is not going to be as prevalent, I think.
“You’re gonna have to get guys that get out righties and lefties, which is [more] important in our game when you get down to 13,” he said. “And the 40-man roster flexibility will be really important, too, for teams that are trying to protect that bullpen.”
That means having relievers with minor-league options available and on the 40-man roster to be able to swap out a pitcher who might be down for a few days because of a long outing.
The 13-pitcher limit was a stipulation of the agreement to increase overall roster sizes from 25 to 26 entering the 2020 season. It was subsequently suspended because of the pandemic-related stressors on staffs.
And after MLB’s 99-day lockout and shortened spring training, the limit was postponed in the short term again — twice — this season.
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