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.

Phillies’ Bryce Harper to miss start of season after elbow surgery

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PHILADELPHIA – Phillies slugger Bryce Harper will miss the start of the 2023 season after he had reconstructive right elbow surgery.

The operation was performed by Dr. Neal ElAttrache in Los Angeles.

Harper is expected to return to Philadelphia’s lineup as the designated hitter by the All-Star break. He could be back in right field by the end of the season, according to the team.

The 30-year-old Harper suffered a small ulnar collateral ligament tear in his elbow in April. He last played right field at Miami on April 16. He had a platelet-rich plasma injection in May and shifted to designated hitter.

Harper met Nov. 14 with ElAttrache, who determined the tear did not heal on its own, necessitating surgery.

Even with the elbow injury, Harper led the Phillies to their first World Series since 2009, where they lost in six games to Houston. He hit .349 with six homers and 13 RBIs in 17 postseason games.

In late June, Harper suffered a broken thumb when he was hit by a pitch and was sidelined for two months. The two-time NL MVP still hit .286 with 18 homers and 65 RBIs for the season.

Harper left Washington and signed a 13-year, $330 million contract with the Phillies in 2019. A seven-time All-Star, Harper has 285 career home runs.

With Harper out, the Phillies could use Nick Castellanos and Kyle Schwarber at designated hitter. J.T. Realmuto also could serve as the DH when he needs a break from his catching duties.