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Boras pushing for reduced 2021 workloads for pitchers; Skubal, Manning are among his clients

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Detroit — If agent Scott Boras had his druthers, teams across baseball would limit the innings of their pitchers, especially the younger ones, to an increase of no more than 60 innings over what they threw in 2020.  

That would mean that two of his clients, Tigers rookie Tarik Skubal and top prospect Matt Manning, would be limited to roughly 90 and 60 innings, respectively in 2021. Matthew Boyd, another Boras client, would be limited to 120 innings.

Scott Boras

“We have a big issue in our game with pitchers,” Boras said Tuesday night in a Zoom conference with media members in all 30 Major League markets. “We’ve got all these great arms that haven’t thrown much above 60 or 70 innings.

“We need roster adjustments. We need to format that into the league...so that next year we are tie trading our great talent into a building block from 60 to 120 innings where they can get back to their norms and they can carry the weight without risking an injury in the 2022 season.”

Which is just one reason why Boras, as well as the players association, is pushing hard for a full, 162-game season in 2021. There were reports nationally on Tuesday that owners were proposing a 140-game season.

“I was very disappointed we didn’t play 100 games at minimum, 120 games, in 2020,” he said. “Because we had the means to do it — taking advantage of October, starting earlier, all these things could’ve been done. I think it was a large mistake of the game because we had a season that was not a customary Major League season.

“We now know we can play the game and we can do it safely. And with the vaccine coming, we can play it at an even higher level of safety. It’s not a question of whether we can do it. We’ve already done it. That unknown has been erased.”

Playing a full, 162-game season, Boras said, is the only way to support and advance the integrity of the game and it’s the only way to get the talent back to the level it was prior to the pandemic — even if 2021 is essentially a building block for 2022.

“It’s very important that professional players with expectations and large contracts be given a normal course,” he said. “They have contracts to execute. Players are resting their careers in the hands of a schedule and conduct. We want the safety and procedure measures of normal performance.”

Among the safety and procedural measures Boras is advocating to owners and the players’ association is expanded rosters. Teams will need to carry extra pitchers to cover the extra innings created by the reduced workload.

“We have a lot of data, a lot of information that suggests that if this is done correctly, players have to take steps,” Boras said. "The pitchers that we've had who ended up most successful, when they were young they had good step-wise management and movement of their pitch-limits and where they would go moving forward."

Tarik Skubal

He used Gerrit Cole, Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg as examples. 

"If you can simulate that process, where you can add innings each year but not overtax them, that's the key," he said. "We all know there's a real record about injuries and innings jumps that are over 60 or 50 innings where they were the prior year."

It puts the onus on the league to build in extra roster spots and on the organizations to create pitching depth throughout your system, he said.

“When you have a shortened season, you have to make special amendments for ’21 to allow for the innings bridge to be filled in a more consistent manner,” he said.

Using Boras’ suggestion of no more than a 60-inning jump, Spencer Turnbull would pitch less than 120 innings in 2021, Tyler Alexander less than 100, Casey Mize, Michael Fulmer and Daniel Norris less than 90. That’s a lot of innings to cover just in the starting rotation.

“Every pitcher who threw around 60 innings in 2020, you really going to have to monitor what you’re going to do with him in 2021,” Boras said. “If you are asking a pitcher to take a 120-inning jump from where they were, you are looking at a risk factors that have dramatic consequences historically.”

Boras said the cancellation of the minor league season and the subsequent cutting of minor league teams and leagues runs counter to the mission of restoring the game to its norms.

“This idea of the ivory tower eliminating the processes,” he said. “You’ve got to have coaches. You’ve got to have a developmental team. You have to have different teams. You have to have players playing and pitching and hitting and getting at-bats.

“We can’t go around here limiting the number of minor leaguers, because the reality is, we have to make sure if something else comes along in the future that we have depth in our system.”

Boras pointed out that most teams, the Tigers included, were calling players to the big leagues from Class A and Double-A last year out of necessity, because they were short on healthy players.

“We need to be sure we’re not putting anyone at risk,” he said. “You’ve seen a lot of teams make cuts. They are advancing capital development and multi-use facilities around big-league ballparks, but yet they are cutting employees.

“They are cutting coaches and scouts, and these people are so insightful and so necessary to making sure we get major-leaguers out of minor-leaguers. My hope is we don’t lose that focus, that we don’t lose those kinds of people.”

Twitter @cmccosky