DUNEDIN, Fla. — Aaron Boone’s first reaction was that this perhaps is a bridge too far.
But the fourth-year manager is willing to at least listen and see how it plays out.
The "it" being Wednesday’s announcement that, in its pursuit to change various aspects of the current game — namely to speed it up and put more balls in play — MLB and the Atlantic League were "moving the pitching rubber back 12 inches to 61 feet, six inches to provide batters with more time to react to pitches." The change will take effect in the second half of the Atlantic League season.
The release continued: "The expectation is that more reaction time will help batters make contact more frequently, putting more balls into play, and creating more action in the game."
The Atlantic League also is testing a "double-hook" rule in which a team loses its designated hitter once the starting pitcher comes out of the game. That rule will be in place for the entire season.
Boone is, let’s call it, curious to see how it works. Or doesn’t.
"That seems pretty drastic but, I think sometimes the craziest of ideas end up having some traction to them," Boone said before Wednesday afternoon’s game that was, coincidentally, attended by MLB commissioner Rob Manfred. "I think it’s important that you try these things out when you’re trying to consider different things. My initial response is, ‘Well, that’s pretty aggressive,' but I think it’s good that Major League Baseball is trying a number of these things out to kind of see what it looks like and gather information about it and look for ways, always, to hopefully improve and move our game forward."
Boone said Clint Frazier initially was in his Wednesday lineup but when the Blue Jays started T.J. Zeuch in place of their originally listed pitcher — righty Ross Stripling, who was experiencing right forearm tightness — Brett Gardner got the nod in left.
"I just wanted to get another lefty in there," Boone said of the lefty-hitting Gardner, who he didn’t see as good a matchup with Stripling on the mound. "Just wanted to get another lefty bat in there with Zeuch going with that sinker and stuff."
Frazier went 1-for-3 Tuesday but is hitting .200 with a .561 OPS in nine games, compared to Gardner's .333 average and .899 OPS in eight games entering Wednesday. Boone said not to read too much into it.
"Frazier rakes and he’s going to rake," Boone said. "But we have a really good player in Gardy, too. Let’s make more judgments on these things when we have a month or two of body of work . . . Today I had a lineup that an hour ago looked different [with Stripling pitching] . . . They’re both going to end up playing a lot. [Frazier], as I tell him, he’s going to rake and he’s going to be a really good player for us this year."
Pitching coach Matt Blake said the Yankees were still "TBD" for Friday’s series-opening game against the Rays at the Stadium.
He said among the options the club was considering was Mike King, prospect Deivi Garcia or going with a bullpen game of some kind. Jordan Montgomery is listed to go Saturday, followed by Gerrit Cole on Sunday.