MLB's newly minted rule regarding the alignment of infield defenses hasn't even made its regular-season debut, but already the spirit of the statute is being tested.
On Friday, the Red Sox showed that the extreme shift isn't yet dead, moving center fielder Adam Duvall all the way over into shallow right field, behind second baseman Enmanuel Valdez, during a plate appearance by pull-happy Minnesota Twins slugger Joey Gallo.
The tactic effectively left the Red Sox with just two outfielders for Gallo's plate appearance, with left fielder Raimel Tapia moving to center while right fielder Alex Verdugo remained at his usual position. Gallo eventually drew a walk on five pitches against Red Sox left-hander Rio Gomez, so the shift didn't come into play.
The creative alignment essentially mimicked the type of shift that had become commonplace in the game in recent years, thanks in part to increased reliance on spray charts and batted ball data.
This offseason, in an effort to increase hits and action on the basepaths, MLB moved to ban the shift by implementing a new rule that calls for two infielders to be on either side of second base, with both feet on the infield dirt, when a pitch is thrown.
But the rule doesn't account for the whereabouts of outfielders.
It remains to be seen whether other teams will follow the Red Sox lead on skirting the shift rule. As former Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks pointed out on Twitter, it may not be as useful for some teams as it is for the Red Sox, who play half their games with the short porch of the Green Monster in left field. Friday's game was held at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers, Florida, the Spring Training home of the Twins.