With about a week until pitchers and catchers report to spring training, Major League Baseball and the Players Association agreed on some rules for the upcoming season:
There will be seven-inning doubleheaders again. A runner will be placed on second base in extra innings to lower the potential of marathon games. And there won’t be a designated hitter in the National League nor expanded playoffs.
The Cincinnati Reds were a team that was well-equipped to use a designated hitter, but now manager David Bell will have the challenge of finding regular at-bats for outfielders Nick Castellanos, Jesse Winker, Shogo Akiyama, Nick Senzel and potentially Aristides Aquino. It could lead to an interesting season for Michael Lorenzen if he wins a spot in the starting rotation because he’ll be available to pinch-run and be a defensive replacement in the outfield more often.
Some highlights from the MLB-MLBPA agreement on health and safety protocols for the upcoming year:
• Spring training games until March 13 may be shortened to five- or seven-inning games if agreed upon by both managers. Completions of innings won’t be required if a pitcher has thrown at least 20 pitches.
• Teams are permitted to invite up to 75 players and 75 staff members to spring training. Once in camp, which requires a five-day quarantine, they won’t be allowed to attend indoor gatherings with more than 10 people. That covers indoor restaurants, bars, fitness centers or entertainment venues like bowling alleys.
• Players and other personnel will undergo COVID-19 testing via saliva samples every other day. Symptom screens and temperature checks will be recorded at least twice each day. Individuals who test positive will be required to isolate for 10 days, then they must have a cardiac evaluation and determination from the team’s physician before they are cleared to return.
• Individuals will wear a Kinexon sensor, which was used in the NFL and NBA, to help with contact tracing inside team facilities. A person in close contact with a confirmed case of COVID will quarantine for seven days and must test negative on the fifth day or later to re-enter the team facilities.
• Players and personnel have restrictions on leaving the team hotels during road trips, with exceptions for medical reasons, outdoor dining, outdoor walks and low-risk activities like golf. They are forbidden from having people who aren’t a part of the traveling party inside their rooms at team hotels. They are permitted to only meet family members outdoors or in semi-private outdoor spaces.
• Face coverings must always be properly worn, including the dugout, except for players on the field during the game or during pre-game warm-ups. Automatic fines will be issued for non-compliance during games with the money donated to charity.
• COVID-19 vaccinations aren’t mandatory for players, but strongly encouraged when they become available.
• There will be no pre-game lineup exchanges and there will be strict enforcement on players or managers coming within six feet of an umpire or an opposing player/manager to argue.
• It will be a 26-man roster (expands to 28 in September) with a five-man taxi squad, which includes at least one catcher, on road trips. If a team experiences a COVID-19 outbreak, it can temporarily bypass roster limits to avoid putting players on waivers.
REDS ADD PITCHER: Right-handed pitcher Braden Shipley, the No. 15 pick in the 2013 MLB Draft, agreed to a minor-league contract with the Reds on Wednesday with an invitation to spring training.
Shipley, who will turn 29 later this month, was a consensus Top-50 prospect in the sport in 2015, but he hasn’t delivered on that potential. He holds a career 5.49 ERA across 100 innings, and he hasn’t pitched in the big leagues since 2018.
He spent the 2020 season at the alternate site for the Kansas City Royals. In 2019, he had a 5.95 ERA in 30 appearances (15 starts) at Triple-A with 88 strikeouts and 37 walks in 95 1/3 innings.
WAIVER CLAIM: The Reds claimed infielder Max Schrock off waivers from the Chicago Cubs on Wednesday. Schrock played in 11 games with the St. Louis Cardinals last year, garnering 17 at-bats.
Following the waiver claim, the Reds' 40-man roster is full.