Craig Counsell, Manny Pina, Hernan Perez, Lorenzo Cain
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Three position players have already pitched in 2018

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The 2018 season is only ten days old, and already we’ve seen three position players take the mound. Usually one of the more entertaining moments of any given baseball game, these appearances have run the gamut from cringeworthy (i.e. necessary due to gruesome injuries) to impressive.

Last week, Phillies center fielder Pedro Florimon became the first position player to try his hand at pitching in 2018. Only two days after Opening Day, he was called upon to cover the eighth inning of a particularly brutal 15-2 beatdown by the Braves. He debuted a rudimentary fastball-changeup combo against the heart of Atlanta’s order: inducing two consecutive fly outs, issuing a four-pitch walk to Nick Markakis and granting pinch-hitter Lane Adams his first home run of the year.

Brewers utility player Hernan Perez, on the other hand, wasn’t given nearly as long of a leash when he took the mound during Thursday’s 8-0 loss to the Cubs. Of course, the circumstances surrounding his first pitching opportunity were also considerably more alarming: Milwaukee closer Corey Knebel labored through two outs in the ninth inning before collapsing on the mound with a hamstring injury. The first Brewers’ position player to take the mound at Miller Park in eight years, Perez was given the reins for the final out of the inning and promptly deposed Tommy La Stella with a line out to left field.

On Saturday, Rays second baseman Daniel Robertson stepped up to deliver the most impressive non-pitcher pitching performance of the year. Down 10-3 in the bottom of the eighth inning, he replaced Sergio Romo to face the top third of the Red Sox’ lineup. Armed with a changeup that fluttered between 74-77 mph, he put Brock Holt away with a pop-up to second base and induced back-to-back line outs from Andrew Benintendi and Blake Swihart to end the inning.

Per MLB.com’s Bill Chastain, Robertson was just the eighth position player to ever pitch for the Rays.

Never stop pitching, position players. (Well, do stop pitching, but thanks for the laughs.)

Major League Baseball to launch an elite league for high schoolers

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This morning Major League Baseball announced a new elite league for high school baseball players who are likely to be drafted. It’s called the Prospect Development Pipeline League. It’ll start next summer and it’ll invite 80 of the best current high school juniors to play in a league in Florida from June through early July, culminating in an All-Star Game during MLB’s All-Star week.

The idea behind the league: to combat the current system in which a couple of pay-to-play, for-profit showcase leagues dominate the pre-draft season. Major League Baseball, schools and a lot of players’ parents have criticized this system because it favors rich kids who can afford to play in them. Major League Baseball is also likely quite keen on having greater control over the training, health and physical monitoring of prospects.

As Jeff Passan notes in his report about this, there will be a component of the program which involves live data-tracking of players during games and drills. Major League Baseball has become increasingly interested in such things but is limited in how much it can do in this regard due to labor agreements. There is no such impediment with high schoolers. Your mileage will vary when it comes to how you feel about that, I presume.