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Cardinals notebook: Nolan Arenado wonders about the rush in MLB's new rules

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St. Louis Cardinals beat Chicago Cubs 2-0  Sunday

Cardinals third baseman Nolan Arenado fields a ball hit by Cubs outfielder Seiya Suzuki and throws to first base for an out to complete the top half of the sixth inning of a game on Sunday, Sept. 4, 2022, at Busch Stadium.

PITTSBURGH — Games should be faster next year, left-handed batters should hit for a higher average and the stolen base may become more of a weapon.

Those seem to be the most significant effects of the sweeping changes Major League Baseball will put into play next year, as approved by a majority vote of the new joint Competition Committee, although the players association members of the committee, including the Cardinals’ Jack Flaherty, did not really sanction portions of it.

The pitch clock will be in, multiple throws to first will be out and exaggerated shifts will be history. The players were not necessarily on board with any or all of the above.

As a byproduct, Gold Glove third baseman Nolan Arenado won’t be pivoting as many double plays with a left-handed hitter at bat next year because the shortstop will be closer to him.

“Tommy (Edman) probably can do a little better job of it,” said Arenado. “I’ll leave it to the professionals.”

But Arenado admitted he was baffled by the significant alterations in the game.

“I don’t think the game needs that much changing,” Arenado said. “I don’t get it. I don’t get the hurry. I don’t know what the rush is.

“Why does the game have to be done quicker? If they want to make changes, I don’t have a problem with it. I just don’t get why? When you go to the ball park, you don’t go to it for it to go by quick. You want to enjoy the night.

“They want the game to go quicker. But if they get rid of the shift, the game’s probably going to go a little slower because there’s going to be more hits. Right?

“I’m still a little thrown off by it.”

Relative to the first change, pitchers must start their motions within 15 seconds between pitches when the bases are empty and within 20 seconds with at least one runner on base. Testing in the minor leagues involved 14 seconds with the bases empty and 18 seconds (19 seconds in Triple-A) with at least one runner on base.

A pitcher may disengage the rubber — meaning throw to a base or step off — twice per plate appearance without penalty. Subsequent disengagements result in a balk unless an out is recorded on a runner. The batter must be in the box and be prepared to hit with at least eight seconds remaining. A hitter receives one timeout per plate appearance.

Flaherty said, “We had the feeling (change) was being introduced and we were going to have it, so we just tried to give the best feedback we could to make the transition to be as seamless as possible.

“They listened to what we had to say ... but there wasn’t much adjustment made in terms of how it was presented to us.”

Flaherty said the disengagement regulations bothered him, and maybe even the pitch timer late in the game.

“Sometimes, we’re taught to slow the game down as pitchers,” he said. “Hitters are taught to slow the game down, too. There’s a lot of information that you have. It’s going to have to be one of the things you just have to work through.

“Both sides agree that you want more action in the game and you want the games to move faster. I don’t think anybody’s going to dispute that. But how does this happen? You don’t want things to be super extreme.

“The art of holding runners, which we work on a lot here, gets lost a little bit,” he said. “A guy gets on base ... holding him at first is a huge thing.”

As far as the modification of the shift, two infielders must be positioned on each side of second base when the pitch is released, and all infielders must have both feet within the outer boundary of the infield when the pitcher is on the rubber.

“You’re not going to be able to hide guys as much defensively, as you would before,” Flaherty said.

Edman, who has found himself playing short right field a lot as a second baseman, said, “It will place a great value on players who have range. With the shift, there’s not as much ground to cover when you have three guys on one side of the infield.

“In a way, I think that will help my value on the defensive side a little,” he said. “But when I’m playing second, I like being out on the grass because it gives me more range coming in on the ball.

“I don’t necessarily like being on the dirt. I think you should be allowed to play on the grass.”

Second baseman Nolan Gorman had been exposed to one of next year’s rules last year when the Arizona Fall League had its infield defenders all on the dirt when the pitch was delivered.

“I think lefties are more affected by the shift,” said Gorman, who should stand to benefit as a left-handed batter. “It should be cool. It should be interesting.”

Besides the implementation of the rules where the pitcher will have more trouble controlling the running game, base stealers get a break with bigger bases, meaning they can get to one faster. The size goes from 15 inches square to 18 inches square.

“Bigger bases?” said Arenado. “I don’t know if that’s going to feel weird or what. Maybe it’s safer; I don’t know.”

Edman said, “I like that (disengagement) rule as a base stealer. But it makes no sense, personally. It’s not baseball.”

Later in the day, commissioner Rob Manfred said that MLB was preparing to allow minor league players to be able to unionize with the major leaguers.

“That’s great news. We’re all for it,” said Flaherty.

Manager Oliver Marmol, trying to win his first division title for the Cardinals, said he would worry about the new rules later. He thought Nov. 8 might be a good time. The World Series could last until Nov. 5, and Marmol joked that he would have to take into account the victory parade that could take place a couple of days later.

“Give me till the 8th,” cracked Marmol. “Give me time to recover. Until then, I don’t care (about the new rules).”

Extra bases

Alec Burleson, who made his big-league debut as a right fielder on Thursday, was the designated hitter on Friday. Though Burleson had no hits (he did have a walk), Marmol praised him for his at-bats. Marmol did not necessarily endorse Burleson’s fielding. ... As an homage to the Negro Leagues, the Cardinals wore St. Louis Stars throwback jerseys and the Pirates wore those of the famed Pittsburgh Crawfords, whose colors were red and white. ... Marmol said he hopes that injured outfielder (thumb strain) Dylan Carlson could make a brief minor-league rehab appearance next week and then be ready for the start of the road trip to San Diego, Los Angeles and Milwaukee beginning on Sept. 20. ... Oakland claimed outfielder Conner Capel off waivers.

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Rick Hummel is a Cardinals beat writer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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