Thursday's MLB: Automatic runners in extras to stay in 2022

Dave Skretta
Associated Press

New York — Major League Baseball finalized the rules change Thursday to bring back automatic runners in extra innings for a third straight season.

Despite an easing of pandemic restrictions, MLB and the players’ association agreed to keep the controversial rule that starts each team with a runner on second base during extra innings for the 2022 regular season.

The agreement regarding on-field rules modifications also includes expanding active rosters from 26 players to 28 from opening day on April 7 through May 1 this year, due to the delayed start of spring training.

Akil Baddoo

Another new rule benefits Angels two-way star Shohei Ohtani. With the designated hitter adopted in both leagues, pitchers who start games in the batting order can remain in the game as a DH after leaving the mound. A DH can also enter the game to pitch. That change will apply to multiple seasons.

“The expansion of the designated hitter and giving two-way players enhanced flexibility to showcase their talents will benefit the game for the foreseeable future," union director of player services Kevin Slowey said in a statement. "The roster and extra-inning adjustments will also serve to protect the health and safety of players during what will be a unique 2022 season.”

The “zombie” runner modification was applied to the 2020 and 2021 regular seasons as part of adjustments due to COVID-19.

There were 78 extra-inning games during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, and the longest by innings were a pair of 13-inning contests at Houston, won by the Los Angeles Dodgers on July 29 and by Oakland on Aug. 7. Every previous season since 1901 had at least one game of 15 innings or longer

There were 233 extra-inning games last year, and the longest was the Dodgers’ 16-inning win at the San Diego Padres on Aug. 25.

The modification for 2020 and 2021 that shortened doubleheaders to scheduled seven-inning games was not continued for 2022.

Active rosters will be 28 from opening day through May 1; 26 from May 2 through Aug. 31; and 28 for the rest of the regular season. Last season, the limit was 26 from opening day through Aug. 31, then 28.

Rookie qualifications going forward will remain the same as in 2021, when September days were not excluded toward the threshold of 45 days for the exhaustion of rookie status in future seasons.

Royals exercise option to keep Matheny through 2023 season

The Kansas City Royals exercised their club option on Mike Matheny for the 2023 season on Thursday, eliminating any uncertainty over whether their manager will remain with the club after the coming season.

Matheny is entering his third season with the Royals, which includes the COVID-19-shortened 2020 season and his first 162-game run as the manager last season. He is 100-122 with Kansas City and 691-596 overall, which includes seven seasons as the manager of the cross-state St. Louis Cardinals.

Kansas City Royals manager Mike Matheny watches from the dugout during the third inning of a spring training baseball game against the Oakland Athletics Tuesday, March 22, 2022, in Surprise, Ariz.

“Mike is one of the finest leaders I've been around and the Royals are fortunate to have him managing our team,” Royals President Dayton Moore said. “He is a tremendous competitor who cares deeply about players, the Kansas City community and this great game of baseball."

The decision to retain Matheny was largely a foregone conclusion. The Royals are in the midst of a massive rebuilding effort following back-to-back American League pennants in 2014 and ‘15, weathering consecutive seasons of 100-plus losses in the final two years of manager Ned Yost’s tenure. And they're just beginning to see the fruits of their labors as a talented, young bunch of starting pitchers establish themselves in the big leagues and more young help is on the way.

Brad Keller, Brady Singer and Kris Bubic are all 20-something pitchers who have taken some lumps but showed plenty of promise, and shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. — the No. 1 prospect in baseball — is elbowing his way onto the opening day roster.

Heading into Thursday, Witt was hitting .476 with two homers and six RBIs in eight spring training games.

The Royals also have outfielder Kyle Isbel and catcher MJ Melendez in the pipeline, and it's possible both could join Witt in the big leagues this season. And with such an influx of young talent, it behooved the Royals to keep a consistent voice in the clubhouse — one that has become intimately familiar with the prospects on the rise.

“I’m proud and honored to work with this group of players and staff here with the Royals,” Matheny said in a statement. “Being able to continue that work is a privilege that I take very seriously. I know we’re in the middle of something special and I’m excited for our fans to see it.”

The Royals open the regular season April 7 against the Guardians at Kauffman Stadium.

Brewers sign former Tiger José Ureña to $1.25M, 1-year contract

Milwaukee — Former Miami Marlins and Detroit Tigers pitcher José Ureña has signed a $1.25 million, one-year contract with the Milwaukee Brewers

The NL Central champion Brewers announced the signing Tuesday as a minor league contract and immediately selected him to the major league roster.

Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Jose Urena throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Toronto Blue Jays, Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021, in Detroit. The Blue Jays won the game, 3-2, in 10 innings.

He can earn $1.55 million based on starts: $50,000 for five, $100,000 for 10, $200,000 for 15, $300,000 for 20, $400,000 for 25 and $500,000 for 30. Ureña can earn $1.05 million for relief appearances: $50,000 for 20, $100,000 for 30, $150,000 for 40, $200,000 for 50, $250,000 for 60 and $300,000 for 70.

He would have a $250,000 salary if assigned to the minir leagues.

Ureña, 30, went 4-8 with a 5.81 ERA for the Tigers last season in 26 appearances, including 18 starts. The right-hander had 67 strikeouts and 42 walks in 100 2/3 innings.

He owns a 36-54 career record with a 4.77 ERA, and 473 strikeouts and 250 walks in 697 2/3 innings. Ureña pitched for the Marlins from 2015-20.

Ureña’s best seasons came in 2017 and 2018. He went 14-7 with a 3.82 ERA in 2017 and was 9-12 with a 3.98 ERA in 2018.