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D-backs pitchers against possible limiting of relief pitching

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8/16/16

Trisha Garcia
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – When Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said in July that the league is talking about limiting the use of relief pitchers because they can “rob action” from the game, he didn’t make any new friends in the Arizona Diamondbacks bullpen.

“I’ve never heard of bullpen guys robbing action from the game,” said Jake Barrett, a rookie relief pitcher. “[Limiting relief pitchers] would just take away from the game.”

However, that’s exactly what the commissioner believes is happening.

“I’ve got nothing against relief pitchers,” Manfred said. “But they do two things to the game: The pitching changes themselves slow the game down, and our relief pitchers have become so dominant at the back end that they actually rob action out of the end of the game, the last few innings of the game. So relief pitchers is a topic that is under active consideration. We’re talking about that a lot internally.”

Manfred made that statement on July 21, according to ESPN, as a guest on ESPN’s Mike & Mike in response to fan suggestions on improving baseball games.

“I think as a manager and as pitchers, you’re just trying to do whatever it takes to win the game,” said Archie Bradley, a starting pitcher for the Arizona Diamondbacks. “If you have to use all of your guys, then you have to use all of them; it’s about trying to win the game.”

In July, the D-backs used an average of four relief pitchers per game to pitch almost 90 innings. The bullpen gave up an average of four hits and three earned runs per game.

“It’s counterintuitive to me because the commissioner says he wants shorter games, but he wants more offense and, you know, those things don’t really correlate together,” said Daniel Hudson, a relief pitcher for the Diamondbacks. “Most of the time, longer games are higher scoring games. It’s very rare to see a 10-to-9 game that’s under three hours and it’s very rare that you see a 1-to-nothing game that’s over three hours.”

According to ESPN, the average baseball game in 2016 has extended to three hours and 26 seconds, a four minute increase from the 2015 season.

“I get what they’re trying to do. They instituted the clocks and limits how long coaches can be at the mound,” Hudson said. “But, aside from putting legitimate timers on guys in between pitches and in between at-bats, I don’t see how else they can go about shortening the game.”

Since being selected as commissioner in 2014, Manfred has overseen changes including time limits between innings, during pitching changes, on coaching visits to the mound and hitters entering the batter’s box.

However, the concern for pitchers in the Diamondbacks bullpen is that a limit on relief pitchers during games would limit the number of jobs available to them in any given clubhouse.

“It’d be something that would have to be bargained on by us as a union and them as the owners,” Hudson said. “I don’t really see it happening because it’s taking jobs away from people if they’re trying to limit the usage of bullpen guys.”

The MLB Player’s Association could not be reached for comment, but Manfred has worked closely with the MLBPA to ensure that changes were fair to players.