SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Major League Baseball has decided to bring back the controversial extra-inning rule for the 2022 season after negotiations with the MLB Players Association on health and safety protocols, a high-ranking MLB executive told USA TODAY Sports.
The official spoke to USA TODAY Sports on the condition of anonymity because an official announcement isn’t expected until the 30 owners vote next week. The owners will also vote to approve expanding the rosters by two players to 28 for the month of April because of the shortened spring.
MLB will again have a “ghost runner’’ on second base beginning in the 10th inning of all regular season extra-inning games, which the players union vehemently wanted. The “ghost runner” also had the support of managers and GMs. The rule was initially implemented in 2020 as part of the league’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols.
“I thought it was working really well,’’ Arizona Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo said. “I know it’s not traditional baseball, but when you’re talking about saving arms, and saving guys for the next day, I think it’s good.
“I enjoyed the ghost runner over the last couple of years, I really have. It added a certain degree of excitement to the game. It sped up the game. It enabled us to preserve some pitching, and not having to send out guys for the next day because we’re tapped out.
“And it was not weighted one way or the other, the odds are equal that both teams can go in and execute and win a baseball game.’’
MLB also included a new “Shohei Ohtani Rule’’ in their new protocols with the universal DH, according to the New York Post. If the starting pitcher is also hitting in the lineup, like Ohtani does, he can remain in the game as the DH even if he’s pulled out of the game as a starting pitcher. Angels manager Joe Maddon thought it was unfair if they were the only team in baseball playing by the old National League rules.
MLB is also reverting to traditional nine-inning doubleheaders as commissioner Rob Manfred vowed last summer, believing the shortened games cheated fans who were paying full price for tickets.
“I don’t know, I’m sure we’ll have a different rule in three months, maybe the next year after that,’’ said D-backs ace Madison Bumgarner, who threw a seven-inning no-hitter last season that wasn’t officially recognized because it was a shortened game. “We’ll just make it up as we go. We’ll see whatever they like, the flavor of the week. …
“Maybe we’ll start playing with a whiffle ball or something.’’
Winners and losers of MLB’s springtime hot stove:Blue Jays, Twins soar while elites scuffle
Certainly, GMs and managers lobbied for expanded rosters because of the shortened spring, lasting just 3½ weeks instead of the normal six-week period.
“I think it’s needed,’’ Lovullo said. “We were talking about how far and how deep we can go with our pitch counts. I’m not ever in favor of getting somebody banged up or hurt. You need some extra bodies with the short spring training. I want to minimize the risk for everybody.’’
MLB will have its biggest changes next season when it plans to implement a pitch clock, along with restrictions for the shift requiring all four infielders to be in the dirt before the pitch is thrown, along with enlarged bases from 15 inches to 18 inches.
“I am in favor of some rule that shortens games,’’ Milwaukee Brewers manager Craig Counsell said last week. “Any rules, any ideas that help us to improve the pace of games and/or shorten games, we should be exploring. …
“I don’t think we have to be right on all of this stuff. I think that’s one of the modes that baseball has to get out of. We can be wrong, but we’re trying to make it better. We have to try things to make it better. Sometimes you have to fail to do things better. We can be wrong because it will get us closer to a better answer. …
“We’re not going to break the game. We’re going to make it better and we have to start down that path.’’
Follow Bob Nightengale on Twitter: @Bnightengale