The Pirates full squad hasn’t even been at Spring Training for a full week and already it’s time for a game and, befitting the pandemic, it may not look the same. In fact, Bucs manager Derek Shelton says it probably won’t because of new rules that are in place that will shorten certain games.
“This is just a pure guess, so don’t quote me on it,” Shelton says (and apologies for quoting him), “but I would guess that every fourth day you will play a nine inning game and the rest are probably seven inning games – just because of volume early on.”
“The other thing is,” Shelton continues, “you don’t have the 25-30 minor league kids that are in camp that you can use on the back side of games.” A sad day for fans of the van riders, the half dozen or so minor leaguers who would shuttle over from Pirate City with a chance to get into a major league exhibition game.
So, when the Bucs play their Grapefruit League opener against the Orioles Sunday afternoon in Sarasota, even Shelton isn’t sure quite yet what the format will be.
“I don’t know. I think we’re at seven and can go to nine if we want,” Shelton explains, adding that they’ll confer with the Orioles since both teams will have to agree on the format. Plus, regardless of how many innings teams agree to play, managers will have the option of stopping an inning if hhe feels his pitcher has had enough.
“I think if the inning goes 20 pitches, you can roll the inning and I tihnk you’ll see that,” Shelton says. “It’s a great rule and I would bet if you asked all 30 managers they would wish it would have gone in five years ago. You have a guy who goes out and he throws so many pitches and you kick a ball or lose a ball in the sun and all of a sudden you have to go get those pitchers and you can’t throw them back out there.”
We may not see much of that right way but it’s liable to come into play as the regular season gets closer. “I think it’s going to be really vital for starting pitchers as we go later into camp and you’re trying to get two or three “ups,” Shelton continues. “Player health and safety part of this is way more important than anything else in any spring training but especially in this spring training.”
Shelton says Chad Kuhl will start against Baltimore Sunday afternoon then, after that, it’s up to pitching coach Oscar Marin and bullpen coach Justin Meccage. As of Friday, he still had not decided on position players but second baseman Adam Frazier is unavailable because of a “slight groin thing” and will delayed a few days as a precaution.
Sunday’s game will be heard on 93.7 The Fan at 1:00.