WASHINGTON — Put this one in the dog-bites-man category.
The new automatic-runner-at-second-in-extra-innings rule that’s a part of this COVID-19-shortened season?
Yankees relievers aren’t fans of it.
“It’s just not real baseball,” Adam Ottavino said during Spring Training II. “You get used to it, but I don’t particularly like having a runner out there that I haven’t earned. It’s not my favorite rule, to be honest.”
During intrasquad games in camp, the Yankees gave the rule several practice runs when relievers such as Ottavino, Chad Green, Zack Britton and Tommy Kahnle — among others — were on the mound.
“Obviously, I’m personally not a fan of it,” Green said. “I don’t know who wants to pitch with a runner on second with nobody out in an extra-inning game. It’s not something that you necessarily look forward to when you’re about to run out there. I think I heard [Ottavino] say that he would like people to earn it to get on second, and I kind of echo that.”
Fans, and players, got their first regular-season look at the rule late Friday night/early Saturday morning.
In the Angels-A’s game, a 7-3 Oakland victory, Angels DH Shohei Ohtani officially became the first extra-inning “ghost” runner, starting at second in the top of the 10th. He immediately was caught in a rundown on a hard grounder to A’s first baseman Matt Olson, and the Angels left the bases loaded. Olson then ended the game with a grand slam after Oakland’s Marcus Semien started the bottom of the 10th on second.
"It definitely is interesting. There's going to be more excitement," Olson told local reporters afterward. "I think it would be a lot tougher to go to 17- or 18-inning games with a guy on second. You'd think at some point somebody's probably going to get a knock."
Not surprisingly, relief pitchers don’t quite see the same excitement in the scenario.
“I'm personally not a huge fan of it,” Green said Saturday afternoon, a few hours before the Yankees faced the Nationals in their second game of the season. “I think when you're playing a 60-game season, every game matters. I think just to throw [a runner] on second base is not the answer. Because it's not something that you would want to do in postseason, either, when every game matters, and that's kind of the situation that we're in right now.”
Green said “you have to have your stuff as soon as you get in there” in an extra-inning game.
“Because the game could be over real quick,” he said. “I think it's just going to be something guys are going to have to get used to. And you saw it last night, the game can end pretty fast, so it's going to be more of a mental thing than anything, I think. It's just going to be coming in, trying to attack guys right away and see what happens.”
And it isn’t just relievers who oppose the rule. Jordan Montgomery likely won’t ever have to deal with it, given that he’s a starter, but the lefthander sounded as least as upset as the relief corps.
“I think it’s horrible,” Montgomery said during camp. “You think of a lot of teams that missed the playoffs by a game or they just barely make it by a game . . . I don’t know. This just kind of makes it whoever can bunt and put the ball in the air wins the game sometimes. I don’t think that’s really telling the best team’s going to win the game. I think it’s not great.”