Players, managers react to ‘23 rule changes

September 10th, 2022

If you haven’t heard by now, a pitch timer, bigger bases and limits on defensive shifts and pickoff attempts are coming to Major League Baseball in 2023.

More stolen bases. Less time between pitches. Higher scoring games. These are just a few of the goals Major League Baseball is aiming for with these changes.

But what do those in and around the game think about the new rules? Here are some reactions from players, coaches and managers.

Reaction to shift restrictions

Ian Happ, Cubs: “As a left-handed hitter, I think the shift going away is huge. Just purely aesthetically, looking out there and not having seven guys over there is nice. There's a real skill to the game for left-handed hitters, when there's a guy on first [to be] able to hit it in that hole. It makes it so that guy can't just throw you changeups because there's so many players over there. If you can get out in front of the changeup and hook it in the four hole, those are real advantages. I hit a line drive up the middle yesterday, the shortstop was on the right side of the bag and caught it. Those things going away, I think it's going to be a more visually appealing game. You're going to have guys like [Kyle] Schwarber and [Anthony] Rizzo that smash the ball on the right side 115 miles an hour. Those are going to be hits again."

Francisco Lindor, Mets: "The shift [limitation] is gonna hopefully create a little bit more offense. So we'll see."

Terry Francona, Guardians manager: "I do worry about the shifting thing that -- you’ve heard me say it before -- the unintended consequences. Like, are you rewarding guys that just pull the ball instead of trying to get back to using the whole field? ... I keep hearing people say, ‘Guys are tired of hitting into the shift.’ Then hit the ball the other way. There are solutions other than just lift and separate. But that’s just my opinion. It doesn’t matter. We’re going to adjust.”

Tucker Barnhart, Tigers: “I'm for the shift being [limited]. The thing that I have the least amount of patience for is when people say, 'Just hit the ball the other way, against the shift.' Those are the same people that are saying you shouldn't be able to get out of the box if you get a ball up by your head, the same people that yell, 'Throw strikes,' to pitchers. I think it's a more pure form of baseball [without the shift].”

A.J. Hinch, Tigers manager: “Look, we're trying to open up offense, and I say 'we' as a sport. We want to open up action. We want to bring athleticism back into the game. We want to make sure that our players are being featured and algorithms are not. That'll be good for everybody to see the acrobatic plays that are made, the plays on the run that are made, the defensive abilities of some players. Let's see it before we critique it.”

Gavin Sheets, White Sox: "I think that it will showcase some of the better middle infielders. The more athletic ones will really be able to make more plays. I think it will put a premium on really good defense up the middle."

Brandon Hyde, Orioles manager: "I'm looking forward to going back to what it was before. I do like traditional baseball. Maybe I sound old school, but I do like the way it was a little bit. [Rougned Odor's] taken a lot of hits away, because he plays so deep because his arm's so strong. That's why you see him play deeper than most second basemen even when we're in overshift there and he's in the slot. He's taken a lot of big hits away because of his arm strength.

"We're kind of used to how it is now. I'm looking forward to seeing what it's like. You don't see many two and two traditional anymore, except for certain guys, a couple guys on a team possibly. I like the fact that they're that they're doing that."

Jordan Lyles, Orioles: “I'm OK with it. I'm not sure how most other pitchers are. It's tough to see guys square balls all the time into a shift. ... I think the consensus of players are on board with that, also.”

David Bell, Reds manager: “For the guys that didn’t make the adjustment and continued to have that extra defender on the right side come into play, yeah, it’s going to make it tougher. I do think there were guys who adapted to the shift and continued -- or even more so -- to use the whole field. It evens it out for those guys a little bit. For the guys that didn’t make the change, it’s going to open it back up for them to a point. Plays can still be made, right? You can still play on the edge of second base. These guys can still make great plays and take hits away. That’s the point, too, of taking the shift away. There may be more great defensive plays that show up again.”

Marco Gonzales, Mariners: "The game has become very analytics driven. Certain teams have gotten very good at placement, defensive shifting and things like that. So this is going to be another trial run. It's like we're experimenting within the game. I don't think we need to do that. So I'd rather just let teams do what they want to do. And if they want to shift, shift. If they don't want to, don't do it. But I think putting strict policies, it just it makes the game too uniform."

Reaction to the pitcher timer

Brandon Hyde, Orioles manager: "The pace of play, the pitch clock, I am really interested. I'm excited about that. I think it's going to better the fan experience. I think it's going to better the player experience on the field, I'm hoping, just by the pace of play getting up a little bit more. So I'm interested in seeing all three. I think that they have the right idea, and like other sports have made a lot of changes in recent years and have made adjustments, and it's nice to see our guys, the league, the players and umpires come together and try to better the game for the fans and the players. I'm interested to see what it looks like next year."

Francisco Lindor, Mets: "I think there's a debate between pitchers and hitters, you know, that always is always gonna exist and when it comes to the pitch clock and stuff, you're changing the way players approach the game. You know, pitchers up here, they have the routine. You can't tell [Chris] Bassitt, you know, 'Be faster ... don't think, go ... just go out there and execute well' -- that's not how it works. Then you have Mark Canha, same thing. You have guys that take a while, but that's just how they are. That's what makes them successful."

A.J. Hinch, Tigers manager: “I think I'm kind of open-eyed and want to see it in action. I know the premise on why the league is doing this and where the league is going. Let's see. I'm never afraid of new things. Like most things, I think the initial reaction is going to be probably pessimism, and then as it grows into our game, it will become our new normal. But let's see how it works. It's something that's been tested through and through in the Minor Leagues, and it seems to have taken a step forward. I think a faster pace is never complained about. Maybe the pitch count helps.

"Old habits die hard. It'll be an adjustment for everybody, but probably after the dust settles, is the game going to be better for it? We're going to find out. But we should probably give it a chance, given new rules that have been implemented over the last 5 to 10 years have all been pretty OK. The sport has survived. I think what the sport's looking for is progress.”

Marco Gonzales, Mariners: "I'm concerned about the gameplay feeling rushed and implementing a clock into a sport that is not a timed sport. And there are certain situations where, when it's hot, when you need to take a second -- when it's a full count, in big situations and you take a few extra seconds -- that I just I don't think it's necessary to put a clock on that time."

Terry Francona, Guardians manager: "I think the guys are gonna get used to the pitch clock. I think in April, there will be some confrontations. But I think guys will learn quickly and adapt."

Ian Happ, Cubs: “The batter has one chance to call time. We play at Wrigley Field in April. It's brutal. It's cold. It's windy. If I can't see, and I call time once, am I not able to call time later in the event where the wind is blowing 20 miles an hour in my face? Am I not able to call time when I hit a foul ball and my hands feel like they're going to fall off? There's real things in there. The umpire has the discretion to give you time if something like that happens, but leaving it up to umpire discretion is a tough thing when you're looking at the back of the baseball card and getting called out on strikes because you're not looking at the pitcher at a certain time. Those are real concerns for players. The disengagements, the ability to hold runners and just the sheer time on the clock. Guys having to change their routines or adapt the way they go about their business, and they've been playing this game for a long time at this level. Just some of the little things that would have helped players get behind a little bit more.”

Graham Ashcraft, Reds: "It makes the game go by a little bit faster, but it will be a little different here compared to down in the Minor Leagues, because they have PitchCom up here and things like that. That can cause the calls of the game to go a little bit quicker, because down there, it’s tough when you have to wait for the hitter to get in with eight seconds left. You might not want to throw that pitch, but you’re like, I have four seconds left, so I have to come set and throw it anyway. I think the PitchCom up here will make it go by a lot easier, because before the guy even gets into the box, you can sit there and go through it all before you’re even on the rubber.”

Reaction to bigger bases and pickoff limits

A.J. Hinch, Tigers manager: “At initial blush, I'm not sure that there's going to be this massive stolen-base increase unless you increase the athleticism on your team. If you have a slow team, you can't just steal bases because of a pickoff rule. You have to have guys that can get jumps and outrun the baseball.”

Jimmy Lambert, White Sox: "You can’t [try pickoff throws] a bunch, because the third one is a balk. That bodes well for the baserunners. Pitchers are going to have to be faster to the plate, that’s what it comes down to, if you want to control the run game."

Mark Kotsay, A's manager: “The easiest rule change is the base size. If that truly has helped eliminate injury, I think that’s a positive in the game. It’s minimal in terms of shortening the distance.

“The pitch clock and the modifications of that rule from what it is in the Minor Leagues, in terms of the amount of times you can [try pickoff throws] to bases, the thing that stands out to me is you’re only allowed to pick or step off twice in the at-bat. I would love to hear what Rickey Henderson has to think about that. I think Rickey would probably sit here and say, ‘Rickey would steal 200 bases if that was the rule.’ He’d get them to throw over the first time, challenge them the second time and most likely be safe, then what are you going to do? Pitch the ball to home plate. I think that’s going to increase stolen bases. It’s going to make it really difficult to control the running game if your pitching staff isn’t adequately getting the baseball to the plate in a good enough time."