By BEN WALKER, Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) — Maybe this should be the Joe Maddon Rule.
A season after the Tampa Bay manager put outfielder Sam Fuld to the mound to warm up for the sole purpose of giving a reliever extra time in the bullpen, Major League Baseball closed the loophole.
MLB has amended Official Baseball Rule 3.05 regarding such shenanigans. The change will "prohibit a manager from sending his current pitcher out to warm up with no intention of having him pitch because a relief pitcher is not ready to enter the game."
The Playing Rules Committee proposed the tweak in the offseason and it was approved by MLB, the players' union and umpires.
Maddon hadn't heard about the change until being asked this week.
"I know this, that all the odd kind of moments that occur during the season regarding umpiring, that they do write them down, and they'll talk about it at the end of the season. So, it doesn't surprise me. And it also indicates that they're on top of things, so I kind of like it," he said at the Rays' spring training camp.
"That was an anomaly. That'll probably never come up again," he added. "The other thing with Sammy. That was just something that we pulled out of our hat, just to try to make sure that we got everybody warmed up and ready to go."
The Rays were playing at Milwaukee last June when the episode occurred. Fuld pinch-hit for reliever J.P. Howell in the top of the eighth inning and Tampa Bay scored three runs to take an 8-1 lead.
Maddon had planned on using reliever Joel Peralta while the game was close. Once the Rays pulled away, Maddon wanted Cesar Ramos to pitch in the bottom half.
But because Ramos wasn't ready, Maddon sent Fuld — who batted in the pitcher's spot but has not actually pitched since high school — to the mound to warm up. Once Fuld was done, Maddon brought in Ramos.
The next day, after the Rays won 8-4, Maddon admitted he'd fudged things and apologized to the umpiring crew.
The rules committee, composed of executives, former players and an umpire, recently made a few other adjustments, none major.
Bats with a scooped end on the barrel can have an indentation of 1¼ inches, up from 1 inch. And the word "baseline" has been replaced in spots by "base path."
Also, the process for appealing an official scorer's ruling has been changed. In the past, a team's public relations employee would often ask the scorer to review a call. Now, a player's agent will work with the union to appeal, then there will be a process between MLB and the union to reach a decision.
Maddon, meanwhile, still had some questions about the reliever rule.
"How do they know the intentions are not to pitch him? How would you know that? You could easily leave him in there for one hitter if you had to," he said.
"My concern would be you could still send out your previous inning's pitcher to warm up and then pull him out of the game before the first batter. That's still OK, correct?"
Maddon was more certain on what to call the new 3.05 rule — as in, don't name it for him.
"Oh! Stay with the number," he said, laughing. "No, make it the Sam Fuld Rule. I'm good with that."
AP Sports Writer Fred Goodall in Port Charlotte, Fla., contributed to this report.
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