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Spring training games in Arizona and Florida have officially begun, but unlike years past, there’s a very different feel to the games based on some rule changes implemented by Major League Baseball.
Tired of trying to keep pitchers’ health in mind after a short 60-game season in 2020, some of the new rules include shortened spring games, which can last between five and seven innings.
If a team chooses, innings can also be shortened. If a manager believes he’s seen enough of a pitcher after he throws 20 pitches, he can call for the inning to be over.
The Chicago White Sox and Texas Rangers played in a spring game in Arizona on Tuesday, and the new rules were very much in play for the practice effort.
In this game, last season’s AL MVP Jose Abreu came to the plate with the bases juiced, but fans didn’t get to see him hit because the inning was called.
Fans booed Texas’ decision to call the inning, and after the game, veteran manager Tony La Russa, who is back at the helm as the manager of the White Sox, said he knew why the fans would be upset with the decision to call the frame.
“Both sides had men on base when the innings were called. I just think, that’s when you get fans excited, right? You score some runs, what’s going to happen next? Are you going to get an out, more base hits? And all of a sudden, the inning is wiped out. And once both (teams) did it, and more, it’s painful. And so it’s more a question of doing right by the fans, in my opinion,” La Russa said.
“So we’ll do everything we can to avoid it. Not putting any pressure on any other teams, but we just think we will do everything we can to avoid it.”
Tuesday’s affair ended in a 5-5 tie.
The same rule was also used in the first inning of a game between Boston and Atlanta on Monday, when Garrett Richards of the Red Sox threw 23 first inning pitches and the inning was called.
While fans have to pay to watch Major Leaguers play these spring games — which are basically just practice games, managers have to look ahead to the six-month, 162-game grind that is quickly approaching.
For now, La Russa gets it and says that the Sox won’t end innings early.
We will see if that holds true or if the fans again get shorted out of what could be an exciting inning cut short.