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Cardinals' lefthanded side of bullpen might not be effected by 'three batter' rule

Cardinals' lefthanded side of bullpen might not be effected by 'three batter' rule

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Friday workout in sunny Jupiter

St. Louis Cardinals relief pitcher Tyler Webb (30) throws from the bullpen mound during St. Louis Cardinals spring training on Friday, Feb. 14,, 2020, in Jupiter, Fla. Photo by Laurie Skrivan, lskrivan@post-dispatch.com

JUPITER, Fla. — Cardinals staffers and their pitchers the other day talked over the intricacies and the various potentials of the three-batter minimum that pitchers, mostly relievers, must adhere to for the first time this year in Baseball 2020.

“There’s a lot of different things on the table with it,” said manager Mike Shildt Sunday.

Shildt said statistics he had seen showed that this was an issue just 4 percent of the time last season and there will be game situations when a team is up or down by three or four runs, when it won’t be a problem for a lefthanded reliever, say, to face three or four hitters, no matter what side they approach the plate.

“But we’re going to explore what it looks like and we’re being intentional about making sure there’s clarity in the plan about getting righties and lefties out. We’re going to have to adjust our thinking a little on how we use guys and how we use the rule and our skill set to the best of our ability,” said Shildt.

For instance, Shildt agreed with the theory that it would be difficult to bring in a lefthanded specialist with nobody out in an inning. Depending to some degree on the batting order both for the other team and the pitcher’s own potential spot in his batting order, the starter might have to record an out in the inning before the manager would change him out.

The Cardinals may not have as much to worry about as some teams because their top two lefthanded relievers from last year, Andrew Miller and Tyler Webb, can retire righthanded hitters, especially Webb last season.

Webb held righthanded hitters to a .184 batting average and .679 OPS last year and lefthanders to .157 and .517, respectively. Miller limited righthanders to a .238 mark although .804 OPS and lefthanders to .211 and .667.

“That’s the key to this thing,” Shildt. “That’s where the game is going with this rule. Guys capable of getting righties and lefties out ... that’s a huge value as a reliever. And starters, too.”

After Sunday's workout, which consisted mostly of pitchers' fielding practice, Shildt and president of baseball operations John Mozeliak drove to West Palm Beach, Fla. There, they were to hook up with commissioner Rob Manfred and fly on Manfred's private jet to a meeting of Florida-based managers and executives at the new Atlanta spring training complex in Northport, Fla.

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