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People are talking up the four-man outfield again

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This morning Jake Kaplan of The Athletic has a story about how the Houston Astros have been messing with a four-man outfield in spring training.

The idea: against certain extreme, lefty pull hitters, manager A.J. Hinch will send third baseman Alex Bregman out to left field, the left fielder will move to left center and shortstop Carlos Correa will shift to the right of second base. Heck, it’s arguably a five-man outfield given that Jose Altuve dips back into shallow right, as you usually see during an infield shift.

This is not new. As Bill wrote last year, people talked up the possibility of teams using four-man outfields in similar fashion. It wasn’t new last year either. Joe Maddon had done it against David Ortiz a few times when he was managing the Rays. If I remember correctly, Maddon was the only manager to do it at all in 2017, pulling the trick against Joey Votto. Votto still found a hole and doubled, because he’s Joey Votto. I assume that if you talk to baseball historians they can find examples of Jimmy Dykes or someone pulling that against Ted Williams. There’s very little new in baseball.

Maybe this year will be different and maybe A.J. Hinch will use that alignment more often. If so, this quote from Kaplan’s article probably says more about it all than anything:

“There’s a psychological part of this on the hitter that I’m looking at, too,” Hinch said. “How much does it mess with the psyche of the hitter? And I’ve watched, this spring, guys try to change their swing and try to hit the ball the other way and hit the ball to a gap. That’s largely advantage to us when big hitters like that do that.”

I can totally see guys — at least guys who are less disciplined than Joey Votto — getting a bit shook by that and thinking about employing a seldom-used inside-out swing in that situation. Which, if the dude made it all the way to the majors by pulling the ball, is a win for the defense, right?

Nick Pivetta to rejoin Phillies’ rotation

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Matt Breen of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports that Nick Pivetta will rejoin the Phillies’ rotation, starting Tuesday’s series opener at home against the Cardinals. Vince Velasquez will remain in the bullpen.

Pivetta, 26, allowed 17 earned runs on 31 hits and eight walks with 16 strikeouts in 18 1/3 innings across his first four starts of the season. The performance resulted in a demotion to Triple-A Lehigh Valley. In six starts there, Pivetta had a much better 3.41 ERA with a 50/20 K/BB ratio in 37 innings of work.

Velasquez, 26, was solid as a starter, posting a 3.99 ERA across six starts. However, he averaged under five innings and 92 pitches per start. The right-hander tossed two scoreless innings out of the bullpen on Friday against the Brewers but was torched for four runs in two-thirds of an inning on Sunday. Mixed results, to say the least. The Phillies are trying to do what they can with their bullpen, currently missing David Robertson, Tommy Hunter, Pat Neshek, and Vìctor Arano.