MLB’s extra innings rule is posing a big challenge for Chicago White Sox manager Tony La Russa.
The White Sox and Cincinnati Reds found themselves in a scoreless tie after nine innings on Wednesday afternoon, meaning the game went to the tenth inning and the rule placing a runner at second to start each half inning came into play. The rule states that the baserunner at second is to be whoever bats a spot ahead of the inning’s scheduled leadoff hitter. As the result of a double switch in the bottom of the ninth, that meant the runner would be the occupant of the pitcher’s spot, so closer Liam Hendriks had to take second. Beyond the risk of injury to the pitcher, Hendriks’ speed — or lack thereof — impacted Chicago’s strategy, with Leury Garcia thrown out trying to steal while Hendriks was on third with one out.
However, the MLB rule comes with an exception for pitchers. It states that if the pitcher would be the extra innings baserunner, teams are allowed to substitute the previous spot in the order instead. That would have put Jose Abreu on second, not Hendriks.
After the game, La Russa admitted he was unaware of that part of the rule when it was read off to him by The Athletic beat writer James Fegan.