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Shorter DL length shifting roster strategy

Move from 10-day to 15-day stay alters use of disabled list
MLB.com @lindsayberra

In the days leading up to the 2017 All-Star break, MLB players hit the 10-day disabled list with an assortment of injuries ranging from Mets outfielder Brandon Nimmo's partially collapsed lung and Nats outfielder Michael A. Taylor's oblique strain to Giants outfielder Austin Slater's non-specific groin injury and Brewers infielder Eric Sogard's ankle soreness.

It's no surprise a flurry of DL activity occurred before the All-Star break, when four days of league inactivity are included in an already shorter 10-day DL stint. But since the change from the 15-day DL to the 10-day DL was instituted at the beginning of the 2017 season, the number of DL placements has skyrocketed in general.

In the days leading up to the 2017 All-Star break, MLB players hit the 10-day disabled list with an assortment of injuries ranging from Mets outfielder Brandon Nimmo's partially collapsed lung and Nats outfielder Michael A. Taylor's oblique strain to Giants outfielder Austin Slater's non-specific groin injury and Brewers infielder Eric Sogard's ankle soreness.

It's no surprise a flurry of DL activity occurred before the All-Star break, when four days of league inactivity are included in an already shorter 10-day DL stint. But since the change from the 15-day DL to the 10-day DL was instituted at the beginning of the 2017 season, the number of DL placements has skyrocketed in general.

According to MLB, in 2016, in the 100 days between Opening Day and the All-Star break, there were 352 DL placements, excluding the 60-day DL. This year, that number increased 23 percent to 423. Thirteen of those placements were made in the five days before the break.

The increase was totally expected. The point of decreasing the DL stay from 15 days (which had been the minimum since 1984, not including the seven-day concussion DL instituted in 2011) to 10 days was to give teams more flexibility in protecting their players. Putting players with minor injuries on the 10-day DL rather than allowing them to push through those injuries in an effort to not lose them for 15 days -- which potentially means the injuries will become chronic and cause more missed days in the long run -- means healthier players for the duration of the season.

"I like having the option," said Brewers general manager David Stearns. "It allows us to protect players, especially with these soft-tissue injuries where you think a guy will be down for only five to seven days. When you only had the 15-day DL, you wouldn't put that guy on the DL, and you'd potentially push him to come back a little bit sooner. With the 10-day, you're more likely to put that guy on the DL and give him the full 10 days to recover, because you know you're not going to lose him for those extra five days."

Video: ARI@MIL: Braun discusses return to 10-day DL

Phillies athletic trainer Scott Sheridan said the 10-day disabled list has allowed him to be much more aggressive with DL placements for mild injuries that can heal in less than 10 days, rather than having to keep a player in a day-to-day situation and force the team to go down a player.

"It was tough to expect the manager to want to go short, because you never know when the 12- or 15-inning game is coming, or when your starter is going to only give you four innings, or when the double-switch is going to come into play in the National League," Sheridan said. "You don't want to put your manager at a disadvantage. With the 10-day, we can be more aggressive with DL placements with those milder injuries, and it allows us to have a full bench."

However, there was a fear that the shorter DL would often be used by clubs as a roster-management tool. At the annual meeting of the Baseball Writers' Association of America in Miami on Tuesday, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred expressed his displeasure at the way the 10-day DL has been used by some teams, especially given the higher DL activity around the All-Star break.

"I have paid a lot of attention to it," Manfred said. "I think the concept of the 10-day DL was a good one in the sense of: A. the clubs wanted it; and B. it gave clubs additional flexibility to deal with injuries and minimize the amount of time that great players may be outside the game to the detriment of fans. All those are positives. Unfortunately -- and we saw some of this right around the All-Star break -- any new rule, our guys figure out a way to manage to it. I don't like some of the activity that's gone on in terms of the use of the 10-day DL, and we're having conversations about that internally."

The league is no doubt discussing the use of the DL by teams as a mechanism to expand their roster, especially with regard to pitching staffs. A starting pitcher can hit the 10-day DL the day after his start and still miss only one start. That allows a team to get a pitcher extra rest while replacing him on the roster with another pitcher.

For example, Dodgers right-hander Kenta Maeda was placed on the 10-day DL on May 11 -- the day after what was arguably one of the best starts of his career, when he pitched into the ninth inning and earned a 5-2 win over the Pirates. His injury was listed as left hamstring tightness and had no obvious effect on his performance. However, like many teams, the Dodgers are using the 10-day DL as a roster-management tool. It helps them carry extra starting pitchers and give rest to the oft-injured Brandon McCarthy, Rich Hill and Hyun-Jin Ryu.

Video: PIT@LAD: Maeda fans five through 8 1/3 innings

"It's probably easier to do that with the 10-day [DL] over the 15-day, but you have to have a glut of pitchers to want to do that anyway," said Cubs manager Joe Maddon about using the disabled list as a way to manage the pitching rotation. "You don't want to miss your better pitchers in an attempt to give them an extra day of rest one time through. If you're full and you have a nice sixth or seventh starter that you feel good about, it might be more enticing. But for the most part you want to put your best guys out there as often as you can. But it is easier to do that if you choose to."

For their part, the players never choose to go on the DL. But with the new timeline, it has become much more palatable.

"I would say for sure I was more willing to push myself through injuries to not go on the 15-day DL, so hopefully the 10-day will save some guys, keep them from injuring themselves more in the long run," Sogard said. "The 10-day is just a little more acceptable."

Lindsay Berra has covered a variety of sports, from baseball and hockey to tennis and the Olympics, since 1999. She joined MLB.com in 2013.