Cubs manager Mike Quade announced this afternoon that Ryan Dempster will be the Opening Day starter, telling Carrie Muskat of MLB.com that he slept on the decision last night and let his “instinct” make the call.
Ultimately which pitcher takes the mound on Opening Day is mostly meaningless, as everyone in the rotation will be in line to start 32-34 games as long as they remain healthy all season, but Quade turning to Dempster is interesting given that Carlos Zambrano has drawn six straight Opening Day assignments for the Cubs.
Zambrano was demoted to the bullpen for a stretch last season and logged just 130 innings for the lowest workload since he was a 21-year-old rookie in 2002, but he was brilliant after rejoining the rotation in mid-August with an 8-0 record and 1.41 ERA in his final 11 starts. He finished with a 3.33 ERA overall, while Dempster had a 3.85 ERA in 215 innings.
Instead of starting Game 1 for the seventh consecutive season Zambrano will follow Dempster, with Matt Garza taking the mound in Game 3 after coming to the Cubs in an offseason trade with the Rays.
ESPN’s Howard Bryant is reporting that Major League Baseball has approved a rule allowing for a dugout signal for an intentional walk. In other words, baseball is allowing automatic intentional walks. Bryant adds that this rule will be effective for the 2017 season.
MLB has been trying, particularly this month, to improve the pace of play. Getting rid of the formality of throwing four pitches wide of the strike zone will save a minute or two for each intentional walk. There were 932 of them across 2,428 games last season, an average of one intentional walk every 2.6 games. It’s not the biggest improvement, but it’s something at least.
Earlier, Commissioner Rob Manfred was upset with the players’ union’s “lack of cooperation.” Perhaps his public criticism was the catalyst for getting this rule passed.
Unfortunately, getting rid of the intentional walk formality will eradicate the chance of seeing any more moments like this:
Earlier, Craig covered Rob Manfred’s comments in which he accused the Major League Baseball Players’ Association of “a lack of cooperation” concerning some proposed rule changes. The union would need to agree to any such changes, which have included automatic intentional walks, limiting mound visits, pitch clocks, and swapping batting practice times for home and visiting teams.
Manfred went on to say that MLB will impose those rule changes unilaterally next year as allowed in the latest collective bargaining agreement.
Tony Clark, the executive director of the MLBPA, responded to Manfred’s comment. Via Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports:
“Unless your definition of ‘cooperation’ is blanket approval, I don’t agree that we’ve failed to cooperate with the Commissioner’s office on these issues.”
“Two years ago we negotiated pace of play protocols that had an immediate and positive impact. Last year we took a step backward in some ways, and this off season we’ve been in regular contact with MLB and with our members to get a better handle on why that happened.”
“I would be surprised if those discussions with MLB don’t continue, notwithstanding today’s comments about implementation. As I’ve said, fundamental changes to the game are going to be an uphill battle, but the lines of communication should remain open.”
“My understanding is that MLB wants to continue with the replay changes (2min limit) and the no-pitch intentional walks and the pace of Game warning/fine adjustments.”
Clark’s response isn’t anything too shocking. Manfred’s accusation was pretty baseless, but it’s behavior to be expected of a commissioner who comes down on the side of the owners over the players almost always.