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OC Register: Angels manager Joe Maddon is still against the ‘ghost runner’ rule


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TEMPE, Ariz. — Here’s what Joe Maddon thinks about the “ghost runner rule.”

“I hope it goes away and becomes a ghost,” the Angels manager said. “I don’t like that rule. I just don’t.”

Major League Baseball is reportedly set to bring back the much-maligned extra-innings format in which each inning begins with a runner at second base. The idea is to prevent games from running too long, which puts stress on pitchers’ arms and rosters.

Maddon has never been a fan, though.

“I just rather something a little bit more normal,” Maddon said. “The bastardization of the game in some regards bothers me.”

MLB first instituted the rule in the shortened season in 2020, and it remained last season. MLB was trying to reduce roster shuffling amid the pandemic. This season, the impetus is more likely that the shortened spring training will affect pitchers’ durability. MLB and the union also agreed to expand rosters from 26 to 28 through April, allowing for extra relievers to back up starters who weren’t built up as they would be in a normal spring training.

All of the new rules — including The Ohtani Rule, which allows a pitcher to stay in the game as the DH when he’s done pitching — are subject to approval of the clubs.

Angels players were not as firmly against the extra-innings rule as their manager.

First baseman Jared Walsh, the Angels player rep with the union, was noncommittal.

“I don’t really know what I think about it,” he said. “I think we talked about pace of play and things like that. So they think that’s gonna help us get to the final of a game. Then I guess it is what it is.”

Relief pitchers would seemingly be most against the rule, because they are the ones who have runs (unearned runs) and losses tacked to their names when they allow that automatic runner to score.

However, veteran reliever Ryan Tepera said he’s actually in favor of the rule.

“It’s definitely a different mindset, and it changes the game,” he said. “It speeds it up. I understand. But you stay away from those 18-inning games, and I think that’s best.”

Reliever Archie Bradley said “everybody needs to be open.”

“It’s just something we have to adapt to,” he said. “A lot of guys are worried about who gets the stats and who gets the loss, to me that’s kind of irrelevant. It’s a rule that we have to deal with. We need to find the best way to make it work. It’s just part of the game now.”

One of the problems of long extra inning games is the impact on rosters in the subsequent days. Relievers often have to be sent down so a team can bring back fresh arms.

In 2019, the Angels’ season may have turned on a 16-inning loss to the Baltimore Orioles in July. The bullpen was scrambled and starter Griffin Canning was pushed into relief duty, and he ended up getting hurt.

“It’s safety,” Bradley said of the rule. “It’s about preventing arm injuries and the kind of nonsense that goes on in some of those games.”

NEXT FOR OHTANI

Shohei Ohtani will make his next start on Saturday, which will be on just four days rest from his previous outing. Four days rest is the current standard for starters, but Ohtani has always pitched in the majors with at least five.

Ohtani threw just 50 pitches in his first outing, on Monday, so the Angels believe he’ll be fine to pitch on Saturday.

Although the Angels haven’t announced anything beyond Saturday, Ohtani could pitch on five days rest for his next start, and then have five days rest before Opening Day.

NOTES

Noah Syndergaard is scheduled to make his first official Cactus League start on Monday. Syndergaard pitched in a minor league game on Tuesday. …

Infielder Matt Duffy is scheduled to make his Angels debut on Thursday. Duffy, who signed just after camp opened, has been a few days behind the other players. …

Catcher Kurt Suzuki, Tepera and Bradley, who also signed late, have also not yet appeared in Cactus League games, but Maddon said all are healthy and on track to be ready for Opening Day.

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