Barring any unexpected and dramatic changes, the 2021 Major League Baseball season will begin on time. Pitchers and catchers will begin formal workouts in two weeks, and spring training games will be played at the end of the month.
Cincinnati Reds shortstop dilemma:How team ended up with a revolving door at short after Zack Cozart
But as much as the schedule is put into place, there are a lot of rules that aren’t set in stone. As of now, there won’t be a designated hitter (DH) in the National League (NL) in 2021, and there’s been no agreement on expanded playoffs, but negotiations between the league and players union could continue up to Opening Day.
The three-batter minimum rule will likely remain in place for pitchers, but the league and union still need to decide whether to continue seven-inning doubleheaders or placing a runner on second base to begin extra innings.
A universal DH is expected to be implemented in the sport’s next collective bargaining agreement (the current one ends in December). The league and union both seem in favor of adding the DH to the NL this year, but nothing is ever that easy when it comes to negotiations between these two sides.
The league wants to expand the playoffs – ESPN already bought the TV rights to the non-existent expanded playoff round, according to the New York Post – in exchange for granting a universal DH. The union has balked at expanding the postseason under their current financial arrangement for dividing postseason money.
It’s unknown whether the status of the DH or expanded playoffs (likely seven teams per league) will change in the next two months, but they could have a major impact on the Reds.
Jesse Winker was the team’s best hitter last season and started 35 games at DH. The Reds need to keep his bat in the lineup, so if there’s no DH, he will likely start most games in left field. If Nick Castellanos remains the everyday starter in right field, then Shogo Akiyama and Nick Senzel are fighting for regular playing time in center.
The crowded outfield situation changes with the DH because it’s easier to fit each hitter into the lineup each game.
Throughout the offseason, the Reds have operated under the belief that there won’t be a DH in the NL in 2021. Considering their vacancy at shortstop, along with a pitcher hitting, it would be a little more painful for them to bench one of their outfielders each game.
REDS ADD OUTFIELDER: The Reds signed outfielder Nicky Delmonico to a minor-league contract with an invite to spring training on Wednesday.
Delmonico, a former high school teammate of Nick Senzel, played in six games with the Chicago White Sox last year. The left-handed hitter has primarily played left field throughout his big-league career, but he has spent time at first base and right field.
A sixth-round pick in the 2011 MLB Draft, Delmonico appeared in 88 games for the White Sox in 2018. He hit .215 with eight homers and 25 RBI. In his career, he has a .224/.312/.384 slash line over 158 career games.
Delmonico, 28, will compete for a bench spot on the Major League roster during camp. The Reds have four outfielders who should be roster locks: Senzel, Castellanos, Winker and Akiyama. Aristides Aquino is out of minor-league options, which increases his odds of opening the season with the team.
NUMBER CHANGES: The Reds updated some of the numbers that players will wear in camp. Kyle Farmer will switch from No. 52 to No. 17 this year. He wore No. 17 with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2018.
Some other notable numbers: Outfielder Scott Heineman will wear No. 26, shortstop Kyle Holder is No. 31 and reliever Noé Ramirez will wear No. 41 after wearing No. 24 with the Los Angeles Angels for the past two seasons.