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Top 25 Baseball Stories of 2018 — No. 21: Mound visits limited

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We’re a few short days away from 2019 so it’s a good time to look back at the top 25 baseball stories of 2018. Some of them took place on the field, some of them off the field and some of them were more akin to tabloid drama. No matter where the story broke, however, these were the stories baseball fans were talking about most this past year.

Modern baseball games continue to be something of a slog. They’re long and there are a lot of pitching changes and a lot of dead time. Major League Baseball has taken a few stabs at remedying this but they haven’t really accomplished all that much. One of the more noticeable stabs came last February when the league announced a new rule which limits the number of mound visits in a game.

Teams are now be limited to six non-pitching change mound visits per team per game — managers can go to the pen a million times if they want — and one extra visit if the game goes into extra innings. The mound visit rule is not limited to coach or manager mound visits. It also includes position players, including catchers, visiting the mound to confer about signals and the like. Mound visits to check on injuries do not count, nor do visits which relate to catchers and pitchers truly being crossed up on signals after they have exhausted mound visits. Which, theoretically, puts a lot of discretion on the umpire to decide the purpose of a pitcher-catcher conversation.

The fun part: the new rule has no enforcement mechanism to it. No automatic strikes or balls or ejections or anything. The umpire is just supposed to disallow the visit . . . somehow. Thankfully there was never really a test for such an occurrence. In late April the Angels were the first team to use up their mound visits in a game, though they did not try for a seventh. A handful of other teams went to six meetings but it wasn’t an epidemic or anything. Indeed, I’m unaware of any team that tried for a seventh meeting, actually and can’t find evidence of it becoming an issue in any game. I suppose if there had been a big dustup or controversy around the new rule it would’ve ranked higher than number 21 on this countdown.

Did the mound rule have any impact on length of games in 2018? Not really. Average game time was three hours and four minutes. While, yes, that was down by four minutes from 2017, it’s the same average game length from 2016, which tied 2018 for the third longest average game time since such records have been kept.

Maybe MLB should have a . . . meeting about it.

Rays place Austin Meadows on 10-day injured list with thumb sprain

Austin Meadows
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Rays outfielder Austin Meadows has been placed on the 10-day injured list with a right thumb sprain, per a team announcement Sunday. No concrete timetable has been given for his return to the lineup just yet, but he’s scheduled to meet with a hand specialist on Sunday as the Rays try to determine the extent of his injury.

Meadows, 23, suffered the sprain in the seventh inning of Saturday’s 6-5 loss to the Red Sox. He lined a two-run triple into the right-center field gap — one of a franchise-record four triples that the Rays recorded in the game — but slid awkwardly into third base and jammed his right thumb in the process. He didn’t appear to be in obvious pain following the hit, however, nor was he removed from the game at the time.

Prior to the setback, Meadows carried a hefty .351/.422/.676 batting line with six homers, 19 RBI, and a 1.097 OPS through his first 83 plate appearances of 2019. He was replaced by Guillermo Heredia in right field for Sunday’s series finale and will likely lose a few starts to Avisaíl García as well.

In a series of corresponding moves, right-handed reliever Jake Faria was optioned to Triple-A Durham, infielder/outfielder Andrew Velazquez and righty reliever Emilio Pagán were recalled from Triple-A, and reliever Hunter Wood was placed on the paternity list. Second baseman Joey Wendle was also reinstated from the 10-day injured list after rehabbing a left hamstring strain and is scheduled take over the keystone during the Rays’ matinee against the Red Sox on Sunday.