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Rule changes, roster changes, and backfields: Spring training is here

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Los Angeles Dodgers v Texas Rangers Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

We’re still 11 days away from real fake games, but spring training is finally, officially here, the day after the Super Bowl. The full squad of Dodgers pitchers and catchers don’t need to report until Wednesday, with a first workout on Thursday. But for a few, Camelback Ranch is stirring on Monday.

Pitchers and catchers taking part in the World Baseball Classic have their first workouts in MLB camps on Monday, which for the Dodgers means Clayton Kershaw, Julio Urías, Will Smith, Austin Barnes, and non-roster southpaw Adam Kolarek get head starts.

With Dodgers camp now showing life, spring training previews abound.

Jack Harris at the Los Angeles Times looked at the roster volatility.

Fabian Ardaya at The Athletic has Dodgers questions heading into camp.

Other things to watch this spring are how players and teams adapt to the new rules, namely the pitch timer, restrictions on infielder shifts, pickoff rules, and larger bases.

But another potential change comes from Jesse Rogers at ESPN. In his summary of MLB’s rule changes he also reported that the league is considering curtailing the scourge of position players pitching:

The new rule: Teams will be more limited in when they can pitch a position player. The previous rule allowed them to use one when up or down by six or more runs, but the sides are discussing a tweak in which the leading team would have to be up by as many as 10 or more while the trailing team would have to be down by eight or more in order to pitch a position player. The league and players are finalizing the new rule.

For reference, there were 132 relief appearances last season by a position player10 by Hanser Alberto alone! — only one of which was in extra innings. Of the other 131 pitching appearances, a rough look at the game logs found 39 such appearances that would not be allowed by a new rule.

Which is to say, make the deficit or advantage 12 runs. Make teams bear the cost of using their pitchers in such a way that the bullpen always needs saving. Or make managers alter their behavior to have pitchers ready to use in such situations. Position players pitching was fun when it was a novelty. But it’s worn out its welcome.