MLB, MLBPA reach agreement on winter ball participation

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From our friend Jeff Passan at Yahoo! Sports:

Major league players will be allowed to compete in winter leagues this season after Major League Baseball and the players’ association reached an agreement on restrictions that will limit pitchers’ participation but loosen limitations on position players, sources with knowledge of the deal told Yahoo Sports.

That’s not such big news here in the United States, but it’s cause for great celebration in the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Puerto Rico and Mexico — where the four biggest winter baseball leagues operate. There was some concern that players on Major League Baseball’s 40-man rosters would be barred from participating in those winter leagues this year because of tense back-and-forth negotiations between MLB and the MLBPA that just concluded this past Friday.

Major League Baseball was aiming to limit the use of young and injury-prone starting pitchers and the union was pushing for as much freedom as possible for its players. Those winter league teams do pay salaries.

Passan has the breakdown of the new winter league rules that were officially ratified on Saturday:

Starting this year, Double-A starting pitchers – those on the 40-man roster with a majority of their time spent at Double-A – cannot participate in winter ball if they threw 140 or more innings. The previous threshold was 155. Similarly, Double-A relievers cannot have appeared in more than 45 games, while in years past it was 55.

Pitchers also are ineligible if their workload in games or innings grew 25 percent over the prior season. The caveats: They must’ve reached 60 percent of the games-or-innings threshold the previous season, and players switching from the rotation to the bullpen or vice versa don’t count.

Instead of a 502-plate appearance threshold for major league position players, those with up to 552 now can play winter ball. Moreover, the past procedure of declaring a “physical incapacity” – teams simply had to provide documentation – now has strict rules. Unless a player finishes the season on the disabled list or spent 60 days on the DL (including 15 over the final 60 days of the season), a team cannot declare him physically incapable. The exception is pitchers who have undergone major surgery in the previous 18 months.

Off-field improvements for players include the requirement of MLB-certified trainers, higher-quality equipment and increased standards for fields, clubhouses and bathrooms, with a compliance program to address issues.

The Venezuelan Winter League and the Mexican Pacific League began play late last week and the most popular of the four — the Dominican Winter League — is scheduled to get underway this coming Friday.

The Mariners are hosting a “Celebrating Women in Baseball” night this summer

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The Mariners have announced that on August 15, the first event in their “Beyond the Baselines” series will be held at Safeco Field. This one is called “Celebrating Women in Baseball.” Those who purchase tickets will receive a Mariners Women in Baseball t-shirt and a voucher for a drink. The event will include a pregame panel discussion in which the members of the panel discuss women’s contributions to the game and much more.

The panel includes moderator Meg Rowley of Baseball Prospectus, Shannon Drayer of 710 ESPN Seattle, Orioles director of analytics and major league contracts Sarah Gelles, Mariners scout Amanda Hopkins, and Mariners manager of baseball information Kelly Munro. The panel discussion will be streamed on Facebook Live, starting at 5:10 PM PT.

This is how you hold an event designed for women. There is no patronizing “101” class that treats all women as if they have no knowledge of the game. Women directly from the industry are invited to speak, not men speaking about “what if”s. Hopefully, the event goes swimmingly and it becomes something all the other teams in baseball adopt until women holding positions in baseball becomes so normal we don’t even notice it.

Terry Francona will not manage tonight’s game against the Rangers

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As we wrote this morning, Indians manager Terry Francona left last night’s game against the Rangers after falling ill. Specifically, he was said to be experiencing a rapid heart rate and dizziness, just as he did back on June 13 when he left an Indians-Dodgers game.

According to a release from the team, Francona was evaluated by doctors at Cleveland Clinic last night. The tests, thankfully, have ruled out any major health concerns, but Francona will not manage tonight’s game against the Rangers and was advised to stay at home rather than come to the ballpark. He will continue to be monitored.

Francona experienced some chest pains and had an elevated heart rate that caused him to leave a game early last season. In 2005 a similar episode caused him to miss three games while managing the Red Sox. He also has a history of embolisms and blood clots, some of which have hospitalized him in the past, so caution is certainly in order.

Bench coach Brad Mills will manage the team tonight.