Ross not La Russa: Cubs manager defends short innings rule originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
When White Sox manager Tony La Russa declared he’d do anything he could to avoid ending an inning early in spring training, he added that he wasn’t putting pressure on other teams to follow suit.
Indeed, the team on the other side of town doesn’t seem to be feeling any.
“At the end of the day, these are exhibition games,” Cubs manager David Ross said on a Zoom press conference Wednesday. “And I understand fans’ perspective of wanting to win and cheer for their group, for sure. But also, we're trying to keep everybody healthy for the stuff that counts, which is the season.”
Major League Baseball changed spring training rules this year, with health in mind. As the league returns from a shortened season, and with major-league and minor-league camps staggered, managers have the option to shorten both games and individual innings.
Teams can cut games to as few as five innings, with agreement from both managers, through March 13. After that point, games can still be shortened to seven innings. The Cubs, for example, plan to default to seven innings for now, with the exception of Wednesday’s nationally-televised game against the Mariners. The ESPN game is scheduled to go nine innings.
Within each game through March 13, managers can end an inning before the third out if the pitcher has thrown at least 20 pitches. After experiencing the rule in action, and hearing the fans’ response, La Russa decided he’d try to avoid cutting innings short.
"There’s all kinds of professional reasons why it makes sense, but fans are paying to come in games," La Russa said. "I know they were disappointed, they voiced it several times.”
Ross thought the Royals might put the rule to use in the Cubs’ 3-2 win Tuesday. Left-hander Daniel Lynch walked three batters in one inning and gave up a three-run triple to Cubs outfielder Rafael Ortega. Instead, Kansas City manager Mike Matheny made a pitching change.
In the dugout, Ross and third baseman Kris Bryant came up with a tweak to the spring training rules.
“If you have to roll an inning, it should be a run for the (hitting) team,” Ross said Wednesday, recounting their conversation.
Ross sympathized with fans. But an extra run or not, he is prepared to cut an inning short to keep a pitcher from overextending himself.
“As much as these guys are unbelievable athletes and really take care of their bodies, the wear and tear is real,” Ross said. “And so we're trying to protect those guys so fans can see a great product throughout the summer, and not have a guy from Double-A coming up and making the debut (even though) he's not ready with his stuff yet, because you've got three guys that are down because you pushed them and some injury popped up.”
A reporter on the call suggested a reduction in ticket prices.
“OK, now you’re on the wrong Zoom call,” Ross said, laughing.
Those decisions will fall to the business side of the operation.