An obscure MLB rule bizarrely prevented Dodgers' Dave Roberts from bringing in a position player to pitch (2024)

An obscure MLB rule bizarrely prevented Dodgers' Dave Roberts from bringing in a position player to pitch (1)

An obscure MLB rule bizarrely prevented Dodgers' Dave Roberts from bringing in a position player to pitch (2)

Charles Curtis

June 5, 2022 8:10 am ET

I’ll bet a lot that you didn’t know this Major League Baseball rule that was enforced Saturday night.

And that’s totally OK, because neither did an MLB manager: The Los Angeles Dodgers’ Dave Roberts.

On Saturday night, the Dodgers were down 9-4 to the New York Mets. In the ninth inning, Roberts decided that he didn’t want to waste a reliever — although, that’s a pretty close game to do so in — so he called on Zach McKinstry to pitch.

McKinstry is a utility player.

But umpires declared that it was against the rules to bring in a position player to pitch in this case, so the Dodgers needed to call on Evan Phillips instead. And the Dodgers’ bullpen coach was furious because Phillips didn’t have enough time to warm up. It was a whole mess.

Let’s break this all down:

What happened?

Here’s the whole thing:

Dave Roberts tried to bring in Zach McKinstry to pitch the 9th inning, but the Mets weren't leading by 6 runs so he wasn't allowed to.


— SNY (@SNYtv) June 5, 2022

Because the Dodgers were within 6 runs, Dave Roberts was forced to bring in Evan Phillips from the bullpen.

Gary: "This is so embarrassing for Major League Baseball."

— SNY (@SNYtv) June 5, 2022

So: Roberts wanted McKinstry, the umpires talked about it, they enforced a fairly new rule here, and Phillips had to come in.

What rule is that?

You heard the announcement. If your team is down six runs or fewer, you can’t have a position player pitch. From

After position players made 90 pitching appearances in 2019 and 75 in 2018, Major League Baseball and the players association agreed prior to the 2020 season to outlaw using position players as pitchers in games with a deficit of five runs or fewer. The rule was suspended the past two years amid concerns over pitcher injuries prompted by the pandemic, but it was restored this season.

There is an exception: If the pitcher is a designated as a “two-way player,” they’re allowed anytime.

How is a two-way player defined?


Teams can also designate players astwo-way playersif they meet certain criteria. Two-way players are able to pitch in any situation but don’t count toward the active roster’s pitcher total.

Players qualify for the two-way designation if they have met both of these conditions in either the current or previous MLB season:

• Pitched at least 20 Major League innings
• Played at least 20 Major League games as a position player or designated hitter, with at least three plate appearances in each game

What a wild scene

There was lots of reaction to all this, including a lot of anger over Roberts giving up in a relatively close game:

Imagine throwing in the towel in a 5 run game. That’s not even a joke, like for real, that’s pretty pathetic and has Big Cincinnati Reds Energy. Dave Roberts should be embarrassed for even trying it, let alone failing at it.

— Maggie Wiggin (@maggie162) June 5, 2022

Dave Roberts: *throws in towel*

Buck: *throws it back at Dave*

— j u l i e (@Lets86it) June 5, 2022

Dave Roberts and all the other Data Applicators are an embarrassment to what used to be Major League Baseball.

— Sal Licata (@sal_licata) June 5, 2022

Dave Roberts can’t be serious with that move man. He essentially giving up on the win by having position player pitch.

— Chris Williamson (@CWilliamson44) June 5, 2022

Dave Roberts quitting down five runs and putting a position player out there to pitch is an absolute embarrassment.

— Foil Hot Dog Liners (@jerseypiroz) June 5, 2022

I could only imagine the headlines if the Mets were on the other end of this

Dave Roberts may get a player hurt because he doesn’t know the Rules

— Phill 🥶 (@MeekPhill_) June 5, 2022

Umps now giving the reliever excessive warmups and the 9th inning is delayed by 11 minutes. CB Bucknor should lose his status as a crew chief and Dave Roberts should be suspended. It's just bush league.

— Keith Olbermann (@KeithOlbermann) June 5, 2022

This isn’t even the first time in the last 12 months Dave Roberts has tried putting in a posiiton player while down five runs.

The rule is actually in effect for this season, though. Wasn’t last year.

— Fabian Ardaya (@FabianArdaya) June 5, 2022

An obscure MLB rule bizarrely prevented Dodgers' Dave Roberts from bringing in a position player to pitch (2024)


Can a position player pitch in MLB? ›

Although it was extremely rare for position players to pitch prior to the mid-2010's, pitching by position players has now become relatively common in Major League Baseball as an alternative to using regular pitchers in lopsided games where the winner is beyond reasonable doubt.

Did Dave Roberts ever play baseball? ›

He still holds Top 10 marks for triples (fifth - 10), at-bats (fifth - 784), walks (T-sixth - 128), hits (ninth - 242) and runs scored (10th - 177). Roberts played 10 seasons in Major League Baseball with the Indians, Dodgers, Red Sox, Padres and Giants and helped lead the Red Sox to the 2004 World Series title.

Do pitchers still wind up? ›

Pitchers are permitted to use two legal pitching deliveries -- the windup position and the set position -- and either position may be used at any time.

What is the MLB pitch rule? ›

In an effort to create a quicker pace of play, a 30-second timer between batters was implemented in 2023. A timer was also implemented between pitches -- 15 seconds with the bases empty and 20 seconds with runners on. The timer was reduced to 18 seconds with runners on base starting in 2024.

What is an illegal pitch in MLB? ›

An Illegal pitch is a pitch that does not conform to the rules. With men on base, such a pitch is a balk, while without it is called a ball, but repeated offenses may lead to further punishment.

Why do pitchers stop at 100 pitches? ›

The pitcher wants to keep the pitch count low to maintain their stamina. Often a starting pitcher will be removed from the game after 100 pitches, regardless of the actual number of innings pitched, as it is reckoned to be the maximum optimal pitch count for a starting pitcher.

Why can't pitchers pitch every day? ›

Pitch count limits are especially common for starting pitchers who are recovering from injury. At the youth level, such as in Little League Baseball, pitch counts are usually capped at a certain point as well as required rest before a pitcher can pitch again.

Can pitchers go to their mouth? ›

While in contact with the pitching rubber, the pitcher is not allowed to touch his mouth or lips at all. He can touch his mouth or lips when in the 18-foot circle surrounding the pitching rubber, but he is not permitted to then touch the baseball or the pitching rubber without first wiping his pitching hand dry.

What happens to the DH when a position player pitches? ›

However, if a player who starts a game as a P/DH is relieved as the starting pitcher, he may not return to the mound even if he remains in the game as the DH, and he may not play any other defensive position after being relieved as the pitcher unless he immediately moves to another defensive position, in which case the ...

What is a position pitcher? ›

Position players are eligible to pitch, and a manager will use a position player as a relief pitcher on some occasions. This typically happens if a game is a blowout, if no other pitchers are available, or if the game has gone well into extra innings.

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