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.

Orioles option LHP Bruce Zimmermann to minors

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SARASOTA, Fla. – The Baltimore Orioles have optioned left-handers Bruce Zimmermann and Nick Vespi and reassigned infielder Lewin Díaz, left-hander Darwinzon Hernandez and catcher Mark Kolozsvary to minor league camp.

The Orioles announced the moves Monday.

Baltimore’s spring training roster now has 46 players.

Zimmermann made 13 starts last season. He went 2-5 with a 5.99 ERA.

The competition for rotation spots with the Orioles has been a significant story during spring training, but after the team acquired Cole Irvin and Kyle Gibson in the offseason – and with top prospect Grayson Rodriguez in the mix as well – there were a lot of pitchers Zimmermann needed to beat out.