Friday, October 7 2022

A 99-day lockout will have a decidedly outsize effect in one area: The largest pitching staffs in Major League Baseball’s April history.

Three major league teams will take advantage of expanded rosters in April and carry 16 pitchers to begin the season, according to an analysis of opening-day rosters by USA TODAY Sports.

The biggie-sized staffs – with the Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Yankees and Minnesota Twins opting to staff temporary 28-man rosters with maximum pitching – are a result of roster rules designed to nurse clubs through April as pitchers ramp up with spring trainings that lasted less than a month.

Come May 2, teams will have to adhere to both modern roster rules – a 26-man limit, up from 25 since 2020, and a 13-pitcher limit, enacted before this season.

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Worry about lockout effects created a temporary expansion of the former rule and a three-week delay for the latter, enabling clubs, for now, to stuff as many arms as can fit in a bullpen.

Three clubs took MLB up on the challenge.

Dodgers pitcher Mitch White was an effective opener and frequently optioned in 2021.Dodgers pitcher Mitch White was an effective opener and frequently optioned in 2021.

Dodgers pitcher Mitch White was an effective opener and frequently optioned in 2021.

The Dodgers, widely expected to return to the playoffs for a 10th consecutive season, will attack the season with a fusillade of eight starters. In addition to their well-decorated trio of Clayton Kershaw, Julio Urías and Walker Buehler, the Dodgers will toss leftys Tyler Anderson, Andrew Heaney and David Price and right-handers Tony Gonsolin and Mitch White, who was an effective opener and frequently optioned in 2021, onto their opening-day roster.

A new-look bullpen that ends at new closer Craig Kimbrel includes seven more relievers, most notably newcomer Daniel Hudson and three left-handers, Justin Bruihl, Garrett Cleavinger and Alex Vesia.

And that group doesn’t include Dellin Betances, recently signed to a minor league contract, or Victor Gonzalez, placed on the injured list

The Yankees will feature a 10-man bullpen, including two pitchers for which their first appearance will also be their major league debut – right-hander Ron Marinaccio and lefty J.P. Sears. In Minnesota, the late signing of right-hander Chris Archer and Thursday’s trade for former San Diego Padre Chris Paddack gives the Twins eight starting pitchers – including another player yet to debut, right-hander Josh Winder. Emilio Pagan, who came over with Paddack from San Diego, will be a key part of an eight-man bullpen.

Just eight major league teams opted for 14-man staffs, while the remaining 19 teams went with 15-man staffs.

The larger staffs will allow clubs to navigate an April schedule in which many of the scheduled off days came during the seven-day period erased by the lockout. In 1990, when MLB locked the players out for 32 days and delayed the start of the season, clubs could not agree on expanded rosters, though some opted to keep full 25-man rosters.

The large staffs may conjure images of expanded September rosters, when teams could (but rarely) expand rosters to 40, a practice that will disappear this year with rosters limited to 28, or 29 for doubleheaders. Stuffing September dugouts was as much about strategy.

These rosters are far more reflective of survival, at least long enough for clubs’ regular pitchers to get their legs beneath them. Day 1 saw nine of 14 pitchers complete at least five innings, no small feat given the truncated spring.

That included Mets starter Tylor Megill, who tossed five shutout innings in an unexpected Opening Day assignment after Jacob deGrom‘s shoulder injury and a brief Max Scherzer hamstring setback.

Yet if ever there’s a month you can’t have too much pitching, it might be this one.

“You never know,” says Mets manager Buck Showalter, “what the next day will bring.”

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Dodgers, Yankees and Twins opting for massive pitching staffs in April

Source: Yahoo Sports

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