David Bell approves of new extra-innings rule

Big leagues adopt rule used by minor leagues last two seasons

Cincinnati Reds manager David Bell loves one rule coming to Major League Baseball in the 2020 season and hopes it remains in future season.

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For the first time, the big leagues will adopt the extra-innings rule used by Minor League Baseball the last two seasons. Every half inning will start with a runner on second base. Bell saw the rule used in 2018 when he worked as vice president of player development for the San Francisco Giants.

“I was sitting in the stands watching games and rooting for extra innings because it was so exciting,” Bell said Thursday, one day before summer camp started for his team in Cincinnati and Mason. “You get to see all that strategy happen in one inning. You know you’re not going to be there all night. You have a pretty good idea of when it’s going to end. I think the fans are going to love it. I think it’s a great rule.”

The runner who starts the inning at second will be the batter immediately preceding the lead-off hitter. For example, if the cleanup hitter is scheduled to lead off, then the third batter in the order will start the inning at second. Managers will have the option of pinch running for the player at second, though the player removed from the game can’t return.

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“I think that will be a pretty frequently-used strategy,” Bell said. “We have guys who can run. We have a pitcher (Michael Lorenzen) who is super fast in our bullpen, but we have position players also who can fit into that role. That will be a factor in building out our roster. We won’t base everything off that, but it’ll be a thought.”

The intention of the rule is to cut down on long extra-inning games, which will be more important in the 60-game season that starts July 23 or July 24 for the Reds. The Reds played 15 extra-inning games last season, and seven lasted more than 10 innings.

Bell has talked to others in the organization about the strategies he’ll use in extra innings this season. The Reds’ analytics group is working on it, he said, and everyone has a strong opinion. The Reds will be prepared but know there’s no blanket approach.

“There’s so much that goes into it,” Bell said. “Do you bunt? Who do you bunt with? The speed factor. Do you steal a base? And it changes depending on if it’s the bottom of the inning or the top of the inning. It’s fun.”

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That’s not the only new rule in 2020. For the first time, National League teams will use a designated hitter. Bell said he will miss pitchers hitting but supports the decision.

“It’s just another another great challenge,” Bell said, “and I do believe our team is set up nicely for it. I believe in our offense. We believe in our offense. Our hitters believe in our offense and our approach. We still think we underperformed last year. With our depth, there rae guys that can fit in nicely to that DH spot. I really feel it benefits our team.”

The DH will make it easier for Bell to get players in the lineup. He said it’s not a job that one player will handle or even two.

“We have guys who are all-round players,” Bell said, “and guys that may not have a reputation defensively like they do offensively, but it just so happens there at this point in their career where they’re so motivated to become better defensively and they are making great strides.That’s important. It’s not easy either to just all of a sudden become a DH. It’s a different approach to a game. You have to get used to being in into the flow in a different way. There’s a lot to think about. But I think easing guys into it and staying flexible with who serves in that role each day will probably be the approach.”

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Another rule to watch is the prohibition against unsportsmanlike conduct. Players and managers will not be able to leave their positions to argue with umpires. They can’t come within six feet of umpires for the purposes of arguing.

Bell led the National League and set a franchise record with eight ejections last season, but he’s grateful for the rule and expects umpires to be as well.

“That shouldn’t even be happening now anyway,” Bell said. “I know they’re going to give their best effort, and we are, too. It’s just one less thing to think about.”

Everyone will also be prohibited from spitting saliva, sunflower seeds and tobacco. That’s one of the rules associated with the health and safety protocols. It’s meant to reduce the chance of COVID-19 being spread on the field.

“It’s disgusting,” Bell said. “I’ve been on a baseball field my whole life, and it happens and it happens without thinking about it. That’s the the tricky part. It’s just creating new habits, and I would love to break that habit. I’m sure other guys feel the same, but that is a tough one. For whatever reason, that’s part of the culture in baseball.”

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