NEW YORK – Yankees' right-hander Chad Green had barely settled in on the rubber Tuesday night and his squad was already down 1-0.
The reliever made an appearance as an opener in the Bombers' Summer Camp intrasquad, starting out the first inning with the ball in his hand as Mike Tauchman stepped into the box to lead off the practice game.
Instead of dialing in and focusing solely on the hitter, Green was met with Tyler Wade at second base before he had even thrown a pitch.
New York elected to give MLB's new extra-inning rule a whirl on Tuesday, placing a runner on second base at the start of every inning pitched by a hurler that typically appears out of the bullpen. Hence, Green was forced to hold a speedster on in scoring position before he had come set for the first time—simulating a scenario the Yankees will surely run into this summer.
"I'm personally not a fan of it just because I don't know who wants to pitch with a runner on second and nobody out in an extra-inning game," Green said. "It’s not something that you necessarily look forward to when you’re about to run out there."
Sounds like a justifiable take from a pitcher brought into a high-leverage spot and forced to adjust to a leadoff double that never actually occurred.
So, how would this new rule have played out if the first inning of Tuesday's intrasquad was the 10th frame of a ballgame this season?
Tauchman was erased quickly, attempting to sacrifice bunt Wade over to third but instead popped out. However, as Gary Sánchez, the inning's second hitter stepped in, Wade's lead at second base grew.
Wade broke for third as Sánchez swung and missed. Kyle Higashioka's low throw bounced past third baseman Gio Urshela and skipped down the left-field line, allowing Wade to trot home.
This was just an intrasquad, a chance for Green and his cohorts out of New York's elite 'pen to begin acclimating themselves with the new norm. But if this came in the bottom of the 10th inning in a playoff game and the Yankees were on the road, the ballgame would've ended on that one errant throw.
Green stayed reserved in his post-intrasquad presser, addressing the rule put in place for this season, saying, "It's not something I necessarily enjoy."
Others who toed the rubber on Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium were far more blunt with voicing their displeasure
Lefty Jordan Montgomery—who threw three-plus innings for the opposing squad—called the new rule "horrible." Veteran right-hander Adam Ottavino took it a step further.
"It’s not real baseball," he said. "We’ll get used to it, but I don’t particularly like having a runner out there that hasn’t earned to be out there. So it’s not my favorite rule to be honest."
Ottavino makes a valid point. Relievers are used to coming into games and inheriting runners all over the base paths. Their very job as reliable late-inning relievers is to extinguish any and all types of rallies.
However, there's a huge difference between inheriting a bases-loaded no-out jam and beginning an inning with the winning run just 180 feet from home plate. Unlike those on in the bases-loaded, no-out situation, this runner didn't do anything at the plate to earn his spot halfway around the bases. In fact, the player who starts at second is either the one who was at bat when the final out of the previous inning was recorded, or someone who came off the bench as his substitute.
Manager Aaron Boone had a more favorable opinion of the new extra-innings format.
"I think I'm okay with the rules for this year, I certainly understand and I'm on board with it," Boone said earlier at Yankees' summer camp. "I'm on board with it as far as, you know, staying away from that enormously long game that every now and then happens. I think that's a good thing for this year."
The change will certainly foster excitement right out of the gate after regulation. It no longer takes a blast over the wall to win it in extras—a team that can effectively manufacture runs can steal a victory in a matter of moments. For the baseball purists out there, restless after the addition of a universal designated hitter, the strategy of bunting, base running and making effective substitutions with the game on the line is sure to be refreshing.
Plus, from a pace-of-play perspective, it's a marvelous change. It would take even more of a ridiculous back and forth to keep a contest going deep into extra innings. And that certainly would be an entertaining finish in its own right.
That said, it's easy to comprehend why Ottavino and his fellow residents of the Yankees' bullpen aren't thrilled. Pitcher is the only position getting the short end of the stick.
As Ottavino explained, he now needs to worry about the bunt and the steal, all the while preventing the hitter at the plate from poking a ball past the infield, sending the runner scampering home.
His plan for this season in that situation? Focus on the strikeout. It just so happens getting hitters to swing and miss is something he's quite good at. Besides, if any pitching staff can overcome a new standard that makes their job this much tougher, it's this group in pinstripes.
"I think we have a great staff overall," Ottavino said. "I know this year is going to be shaped a little different because of the shortened season. I feel like we’re going to be able to utilize everybody and we are deeper than most teams so I do think that’s an advantage in any length of a season but especially in a year like this."
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