GOODYEAR, AZ. — In one of baseball’s never-ending attempts to speed up the game, usually unsuccessfully, one comical facet of the game has been eliminated.
And that suits Cincinnati Reds manager Bryan Price just fine.
A manager no longer has to run onto the field to ask an umpire how his day is going when the manager isn’t certain whether he wants to challenge a play.
Last year when there was a close play, a manager would run onto the field to the umpire, a delaylng tactic while the manager awaited word from the video room as to whether he should challenge or not.
THE NEW RULE is that the manager can ask for a challenge from the top step of the dugout with a hand signal, a shout or a whistle — anything to get the umpire’s attention. That eliminates a manager running onto the field, finding out from his video room that he shouldn’t challenge, forcing him to return to the dugout without issuing a challenge.
“I’m glad they made that change,” said Price. “It is a blessing. It is a selfish perspective, but I didn’t like to run out there and have people in the dugout yelling at me to come back. It was a waste of time and it was embarrassing. Now we can just halt the game for 30 seconds and take a look at the play. Who cares if you are on the field? Just tell the umpire, ‘Hey, hold up for a second.’”
ANOTHER CHANGE is that batters must keep one foot in the batter’s box at all times (are you paying attention, Jay Bruce?),
“It seems that as much as we’re working to quicken up the game there are other parts of it that extend the length of the game,” said Price. “It’s a match-up game with your bullpen. You don’t use Pedro Borbon for 3 2/3 innings of relief any more. That adds time. There are defensive shifts — guys running from third base to short right field and then back. Sometimes that’s from one pitch to another. There are managers who will change a shift when the count goes from 2-and-0 to 2-and-1.
“But if you are a baseball purist, you like all the strategy,” he added. “You like to be an arm chair manager and manage the game with the two managers. But some people just want to see home runs and runs scored and happening at a quick pace.”
IT WAS DISCUSSED in the off-season that a relief pitcher would have to face more than one batter. That, fortunately, was scrapped. For now.
“They talk about the pace of the game, but how about the quality of the game,” said Price. “Baseball is a game of strategies. If we have to change the rules to affect the strategies to make it quicker. . .I think we lose sight of the intentions of a storied game. It is a great game for a million different reasons.
“If you lose enough games when you are forced to use wrong match-ups, fans on the losing side are gong to be pretty upset when you have to leave your situational left-hander out there to face a guy who hits .450 off lefties because it is mandated,” Price added.
WHEN THE REDS acquired infielder Eugenio Suarez from the Detroit Tigers in the Alfredo Simon trade, he was listed in the Tigers media guide as a switch-hitter. So the 2015 Reds Media Guide lists him as a switch-hitter.
Not so. Suarez gave up switch-hitting in his minor-league career but the Tigers never made the change in their guide and the Reds picked it up.
When manager Bryan Price was asked if the Reds acquired him to be a switch-hitter, he laughed and said, “Let’s retract the deal.” Actually, the Reds knew he only bats right handed and Price said, “Where did it come up that he is a switch-hitter?”
IT IS KNOWN that pitchers Homer Bailey and Sean Marshall are being held back early this spring, but they aren’t they only ones. The club, though, is not naming names of others who aren’t perfectly healthy.
“I won’t go down the list because I don’t want to set off any red flags,” said Price. “Every year after physicals there are things we are going to look further into, from orthopedic to respiratory to heart murmurs. There are things that come up when you have 34 pitchers and six catchers in camp. Unless it is something that prevents a guy from playing, we just stay away from talking about it.”
In addition to being cautious with Bailey and Marshall, Price said pitcher Robert Stephenson is going to be a couple of days behind in throwing off the mound.
“There is nothing wrong, but we want to make sure his shoulder is totally strong and he is heading in the right direction,” said Price. “We just want to be cautious. We want his long toss to bee at a certain progression before we put him on the mound and he was a little behind.”
Stephenson, the No. 1 draft pick in 2011, was 7-10 with a 4.74 earned run average in 26 starts at Class AA Pensacola last season and Price said he had no shoulder issues.