The Los Angeles Dodgers were prevented from pitching a positional player in their ninth inning half Saturday night against the New York Mets after unwittingly violating a recent rule addition.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts intended to use utility player Zach McKinstry to record the contest’s final three outs 9-4 (box score). The Dodgers, who had already exhausted six pitchers after Walker Buehler was retired in the third inning of the shortest start of his career, hoped to avoid further exhausting their relief corps before Sunday. Nevertheless, the referees convened before team manager CB Bucknor announced that McKinstry could not pitch.
Bucknor’s explanation invoked a rule Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association had agreed to before the 2020 season that would prohibit position players from pitching in games with a deficit of five runs or less. unless they are designated two-way players. (McKinstry is not listed as such.) The rule had not been enforced in either 2020 or 2021 due to the pandemic and concerns over player health and safety. The rule being enforced this season seemed to slip under Roberts’ radar.
“It’s a rule that’s obviously in place for 2022. They were talking about it in 2020,” Roberts told The Associated Press. “The goal posts moved a lot. It’s an oversight on my part, but I remember we did it last year. They kind of had to confer to make sure it was the case. They got it right, the referees.”
Roberts was able to move McKinstry to third base, and reliever Evan Phillips was given unlimited time to warm up before his outing began. After a delay that lasted over 10 minutes, he would pitch a scoreless inning, giving up a hit and striking out two batters.