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MLB officially institutes 3-batter minimum for 2020 season

MLB officially institutes 3-batter minimum for 2020 season

SAN DIEGO -- Major League Baseball is pushing ahead with a rules change for 2020 that requires pitchers to face at least three batters or finish a half-inning.

Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred also said Wednesday the injured list for pitchers will revert to 15 days from 10 days. In tandem, pitchers optioned to the minors will have to spend 15 days with farm teams before they can be recalled unless they replace a pitcher going on the IL.

As part of a March 8 agreement with the players' association, management had the right to make the changes for 2020.

"I've been kind of contemplating things in my head, what we want to do and what we want to see and the kind of pitchers we want in our bullpen," said Dave Martinez, manager of the World Series champion Washington Nationals said.

All pitchers must face at least three batters or end a half-inning, unless injured. While the union refused to agree to that provision, it also said it will not challenge it.

"It's already come up in a lot of conversations. It's definitely on my brain," new Chicago Cubs manager David Ross said. "You will see definitely see a change."

New Philadelphia manager Joe Girardi said the use of one-batter situational left-handers had decreased in recent seasons.

"I think the game has kind of went to multiple-inning pitchers anyway, in a sense guys that can give you more than three outs," he said. "Depending how many left-handers they have, maybe you spread your left-handers out. So if they have a guy that is efficient in getting left-handed-hitters out, you surround him with two beasts that are right-handed hitters."

Active rosters will increase by one to 26 from opening day through Aug. 31 and will drop from 40 to 28 from Sept. 1 through the end of the regular season. What had been a 26th player for certain day-night doubleheaders through Aug. 31 will become a 27th player in those situations.

Teams may carry no more than 13 pitchers through Aug. 31 and no more than 14 from Sept. 1 through the end of the regular season.

Baseball's regular injured list will remain at 10 days for position players along with a 10-day option recall minimum. There still will be a seven-day concussion IL and a 60-day IL for longer-term injuries.

Position players will be prohibited from pitching through the ninth inning unless the player's team is winning or losing by six or more runs when he takes the mound. Two-way players are exempt if they have pitched 20 innings and made 20 starts with at least three plate appearances in the current or previous year.

MLB is still working with team local television networks to determine whether half-inning breaks for games not on national TV can be cut to 1 minute, 55 seconds.

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Davey Martinez names Carter Kieboom the Nationals’ starting third baseman

Davey Martinez names Carter Kieboom the Nationals’ starting third baseman

Carter Kieboom has not joined the Nationals for their on-field workouts yet. But, he does have a job assignment.

Davey Martinez said Saturday that Kieboom will be the team’s full-time third baseman when the season starts. The position was previously a competition between the rookie and veteran Asdrúbal Cabrera in spring training.

“As of right now, yes, I anticipate in a 60-game season, he’s going to go out there and play every day,” Martinez said of Kieboom.

The decision answers one of the largest questions of the offseason for the defending World Series champions. Their managing principal owner, Mark Lerner, said they could not afford Stephen Strasburg and Anthony Rendon. So, they paid Strasburg and not Rendon. He signed with Anaheim.

Josh Donaldson was a high-end free agent they could have paid to play third base. He signed a four-year, $92 million contract with Minnesota. Trade rumors were also attached to Chicago’s Kris Bryant and Seattle’s Kyle Seager.

RELATED: WHAT DOES A SHORTENED SEASON MEAN FOR KIEBOOM?

None of that happened. The Nationals instead entered spring training with a question about who would replace Rendon, an MVP finalist in 2019, someone the organization drafted, developed and played for seven years, and the central figure in their offense. They needed a replacement and settled on Kieboom.

The 22-year-old’s brief, 11-game stint in the major leagues did not go well last season. He compiled -1.0 bWAR in barely two weeks. He struggled defensively at shortstop and produced an OPS-plus of 24 at the plate. However, the sample size is minuscule.

Washington has a history of playing its top prospects consistently under Mike Rizzo. Bryce Harper and Juan Soto were those the organization deemed ready at a young age, so they brought them up and put them in the field for good. The same idea follows Kieboom into the short season.

Kieboom started nine games at third base for Triple-A Fresno late last season. He made four errors. He played in 14 of the 17 spring training games before baseball slammed to a stop this year. Kieboom made three errors in 10 starts at third base then. It’s an alarming rate. That’s a 49-error full season. Rendon made 53 errors in seven seasons playing third base (729 starts).

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“The biggest thing for him was obviously his defense,” Martinez said. “We feel that he’s going to hit here. One thing when he left, [Tim Bogar] and Chip [Hale] talked to him about his footwork and really honing in on his footwork and getting his feet turned to where he’s going to throw at all times. I know he’s been working out. He’s hit tons. I know he’s faced live pitching and [was] trying to keep in shape the best he can and trying to do baseball activities as much as he can.”

Kieboom is expected to join the group workouts in Nationals Park on Sunday. When the season starts, he will be standing at third base, a legacy spot within the organization first held by Ryan Zimmerman then Rendon. Even in a short year, Kieboom will be compared to the person he is replacing, though he would argue there is no comparison.

“I’m not here to fill [Anthony Rendon's] shoes,” Kieboom told NBC Sports Washington in February. “That guy, in every category possible -- baseball, clubhouse, off the field, family, he checks all the boxes. He does it. He’s a special player. That’s not my job, to fill his shoes. My job’s to be myself, do what I can. Control what I can control.

“There’s going to be expectations of course. There’s going to be comparisons to what I do versus what Tony does. But that just comes with the job. That comes with anything when somebody as great as he is leaves, and joins another team and somebody needs to come in and fill the spot. I wouldn’t even say I’m replacing him. I don’t -- he’s not replaceable. But I’m here to fill a spot, take care of business, play my game and go from there.”

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Freddie Freeman and three other Braves have tested positive for the coronavirus

Freddie Freeman and three other Braves have tested positive for the coronavirus

ATLANTA -- Atlanta Braves four-time All-Star Freddie Freeman, reliever Will Smith and two teammates have tested positive for the coronavirus.

Manager Brian Snitker said Saturday the four players, including right-hander Touki Toussaint and infielder Pete Kozma, agreed to have the team disclose their positive tests.

Snitker said Freeman had a negative intake test before having a positive test on Friday. Snitker said the first baseman has a fever and "is not feeling great."

"It will be a while before we can get him back," Snitker said of Freeman.

RELATED: WHO IN SPORTS HAS TESTED POSITIVE FOR CORONAVIRUS

Major League Baseball has scheduled the 60-game season to start on July 23. Freeman is the biggest star in the sport so far to have his positive virus test publicly announced by his team.

The 30-year-old Freeman set career highs with 38 home runs and 121 RBIs last season in helping Atlanta win its second straight NL East title.

The Braves signed Smith, the former Giants reliever, to a three-year, $39 million deal in the offseason.

Snitker said Smith and Toussaint have no symptoms. He said Kozma, who is working with top minor leaguers at the team's Triple-A Gwinnett facility, has a fever.

Snitker also said first base coach Eric Young Sr., 53, has opted out of for the season due to concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic.

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