Don Mattingly thinks September roster rules should be changed

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On Saturday, the Marlins and Phillies combined to use 15 different pitchers. None of those 15 pitchers had a plate appearance, which is a modern era record in a game without the DH. The Phillies went on to win 5-4. Saturday’s game was also the fourth nine-inning game in which neither team’s pitcher recorded more than six outs. Three of those four games took place during September.

Marlins manager Don Mattingly thinks MLB’s September roster expansion rules should be changed, Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald reports. Mattingly said, “What we did [Saturday] and really what they ended up doing, too, is something that really only happens in September and, quite honestly, shouldn’t be able to happen. It’s too many guys. It’s not really regular baseball.”

Mattingly suggests keeping the active roster capped at 25 players, but allowing teams in September to carry a “taxi squad.” He said, “I’ve said it before. I’d be in favor of more of a taxi squad. You have your 25 guys that would be eligible for the playoffs — activate three, four, or five — and then you’re going to play more of a normal style. And you can move those guys around every day.”

A change like this would need to be collectively bargained as reducing September roster spots has an impact on players’ earning potential since fewer of them would be accumulating service time. Spencer notes that in Mattingly’s suggestion, the players on the “taxi squad” would still be paid and accumulate service time, but that still cuts out 10 players.

From a viewing perspective, September games — particularly ones without much of an impact on playoff chances — tend to be long and get dragged out in the later innings due to a greater willingness to make pitching changes, pinch-hit, and pinch-run. Mattingly is also right that the strategy changes in September. Normally, a manager would have to more seriously contemplate the pros and cons of pinch-hitting for his pitcher in the fifth inning or pinch-running for a slow-footed slugger in the seventh, but an expanded roster makes that calculus a lot simpler.

Phillies select active duty Navy aviator in MLB Rule 5 draft

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SAN DIEGO — The Philadelphia Phillies took U.S. Navy aviator Noah Song in the Rule 5 draft Wednesday, hoping the former top pitching prospect can still be effective once he completes his military service.

There is no definitive date on when the 25-year-old Song might be able to join the Phillies.

Song was picked from the Boston Red Sox system in the draft for unprotected minor league players. Philadelphia put him on the military list while he continues his active duty and he won’t count on the 40-man roster, the pool from which major league teams can select players for the 26-man active roster.

Song impressed in his only pro season, making seven starts for Boston’s Class A Lowell affiliate in 2019, with a 1.06 ERA and 19 strikeouts in 17 innings. With a fastball clocked in the upper 90s mph, the right-hander dominated that year as a senior at the U.S. Naval Academy, going 11-1 with a 1.44 ERA and 161 strikeouts in 94 innings.

The Red Sox drafted Song in the fourth round – he likely would’ve gone much higher, but his impending military service caused teams to back off.

In November 2019, Defense Secretary Mark Esper signed a memo clearing the way for athletes at the nation’s military academies to delay their service commitments and play pro sports after graduation. Song’s request to have those new rules retroactively applied to his case was denied.

Song began school as a flight officer in the summer of 2020 and finished that phase last April. He started additional aviation training in May.

Song was among the 15 players, including three Boston pitchers, taken in the big league phase of the Rule 5 draft, which wasn’t held last year because of the MLB lockout.

Washington took righty Thad Ward from Boston’s Triple-A roster with the first pick. Baltimore took Red Sox minor league pitcher Andrew Politi with the ninth choice and the Phillies chose Song with the 11th selection.

Teams pay $100,000 to take players in the major league portion of the Rule 5 draft. The players must stay on the big league roster next season or go on waivers and, if unclaimed, be offered back to their original organization for $50,000.