By Matthew McAdow
MLB Rule Changes
As we all know, change can be hard for those that are used to the same routine for a long period of time. Baseball, just as everything else, has to adapt and create new rules. While many think that baseball should be “left alone,” I am sure many thought that when basketball made a 3 point line and look how well that has turned out. During the off-season, some MLB rule changes were implemented and for the most part, I highly enjoy the new changes. Below are a list of new MLB rule changes for the 2023 MLB season:
- The Shift Rule – At the time a pitcher releases the ball, all infielders must be in the infield and have 2 on each side of second base. This is the one rule that I am not necessarily thrilled about. Sure, it will benefit many on the Reds team, but I enjoyed watching batters have to learn to hit opposite field. This was never an issue if you go years back, but the statistics we have available to us now with modern technology forced the MLB’s hands to make a rule change. Can you imagine if Jay Bruce would’ve played during this new rule change?
- The Pitch Clock – Pitchers will now only have 15 seconds to throw a pitch (20 if runners on base). If a pitch is not delivered during that time, a ball will be awarded to the batter. On the other hand, if a batter causes a delay, a strike will be given to the batter.
- Pickoff Rule – I am happy to see this rule implemented. A pitcher can now only step off the mound or make a pickoff twice per plate appearance. If a third attempt is made, a balk will be awarded.
- Larger Bases – This year, although it is not a major change, bases are increasing in size. I enjoy this new rule as well, as it will lead to less injuries and more stolen bases. Having a great arm behind the plate will be more important than ever.
Opening Day Possibilities
While I have written about Spring Training for the last two weeks, I wanted to take this week to go over the possible Reds roster (excluding pitchers) come Opening Day. The Reds have many “question marks” surrounding multiple positions and players before the start of the season and Spring Training will give us an idea of what is to come.
1B – Joey Votto (If healthy). If Joey is unable to suit up, it will likely be Myers and Stephenson taking rotations at 1st.
2B – Jonathan India will suit up at second base. With the limits on the shift, he will have to play much better on defense than he did in 2022 to fulfill what this team needs from him.
SS – The shortstop position will be a “toss-up” between Jose Barrero and Kevin Newman. Jose will be given a short string and if he doesn’t turn it around quick in Spring Training, he might just be taking a back seat in 2023 to Newman. The Reds have a ton of talent at this position coming up in De La Cruz, McClain, and Marte.
3B – Spencer Steer will have a ton of pressure on him to perform at 3rd base. As long as he plays the way he is capable of playing, his job should be secured at 3rd base.
Catcher – Tyler Stephenson has already been told that he will be the catcher 4 out of every 10 games. His bat is too important to lose due to injury, but this also puts a lot of pressure on Casali and Maile to perform at the plate at a high level, which they have not proven in their most recent seasons. I hope to see Casali “turn back the clock” and perform as well as he did in 2018.
OF – This is going to get interesting…Depending on pitcher matchups and who has the “hot bat,” all of these players look to get quite a few at-bats this season. Fraley, Myers, Fairchild, Friedl, Solak, Benson, Pinder, Senzel, and Siani, all look to claim a majority roster spot this season.
DH – Are you as happy as I am to not watch Moustakas claim most of these at-bats this season? The DH role will likely give many at-bats to Stephenson, Votto, and the hot-bat depending on each matchup.
David Fulcher joins Matt’s Take
3-Time Pro Bowler, “Swat Team Member,” College Football Hall of Famer, and one of the best safeties in Bengals history kindly joined Matt’s Take this week to talk football. David was selected in the third round of the NFL Draft and went on to make quite an impact in the NFL. Many Bengals fans remember him for his hard hits and his ability to cover a ton of yards in the back field. In Super Bowl XXIII, Fulcher recorded a sack and forced fumble, which many still remember this important play to this day.
Q: What is your favorite memory as a Bengal?
A: “Playing in Superbowl XXIII is my favorite memory.”
Q: As a 3X Pro Bowler, what are your thoughts on how the Pro Bowl is handled now?
A: “I think it’s a great idea. It keeps players from really getting hurt.”
Q: If you could sit and watch a game with any current or former player, who would you choose?
A: “I would choose my former teammates Louis Breeden and Barney Bussey.”
Q: Who was your toughest opponent to face during your long NFL career?
A: “There were many. I would say Walter Payton and Barry Sanders.”
Q: What safety in the league reminds you of yourself and how you played the game of football?
A: “Most Safeties today are much smaller than I was. I can’t see anyone playing big like I did.”
Q: What do you believe Cincinnati needs to do this off-season to be a Super Bowl contender again next season?
A: “Keep the core players that they have, draft a cover corner #1, and continue to keep Joe Borrow protected.”
The Man Behind the Scenes
The “Man behind the Scenes” regarding Joey Votto’s return to the field kindly joined Matt’s Take this week. Jason Martin, fitness trainer and High Performance Coach for professional and elite level athletes talked with me this week about Joey Votto. Joey spends much of his off-season with Jason and due to Joey’s recent surgery, Jason really played a huge impact in his return to the field. I have heard each week that Joey might not make it back before Opening Day, but I was lucky enough to talk directly with one of Joey’s most experienced trainers to find out his opinion.
Q: As Joey’s fitness trainer this off-season, how much did you see Votto improve from the beginning to end?
A: “This was obviously a unique off-season for Joey following his shoulder surgery, but he made massive improvements from the time I started with him at the end of October until now. We had two amazing practitioners that helped in the rehab process. A physio in Cincinnati and a chiropractor in Toronto who helped him restore his range of motion and regain motor control of the shoulder. This allowed me and our programming consultant to create a progressive approach to Joey’s overall strength & conditioning. In the final few weeks of the off-season it was great to see the muscle mass he had regained and watching him sprint & move with no hesitation.”
Q: Do you believe Joey has a chance to be ready for the start of the 2023 season?
A: “With Joey’s experience and high degree of self-awareness, he’ll know when he feels ‘right.’ I know that the last thing he wants to do is step up to the plate feeling anything other than 100%. What I can say is that his movement patterns look excellent, and he felt better and better every day. Joey is one of the most dedicated and focused athletes that I know, he’s patient and trusts the process. Because of this, I’m confident he will continue to build his strength and timing throughout spring training but he’ll know when he’s ready.”
Q: Working with Joey day in and day out has to be quite interesting. What is one of the most interesting conversations you’ve had with Joey?
A: “This is a challenging question to answer because there are so many memorable and interesting conversations we’ve had over the years. Most recently, I would say that the conversations this off-season surrounding what to post next on Instagram were some of my favorites. He definitely put in some thought and effort for each post, but he truly just wanted to have fun and provide some entertainment in the process. One day, when he showed up to training with a Mariah Carey shirt on, I knew we were in for a good one. Throughout the session we had some fun brainstorming how he was going overlay ‘All I Want for Christmas is You’ and I would say the final product was a success.”
Q: How long have you been rehabbing professional athletes and providing fitness consultations?
A: “I’ve been a trainer & fitness consultant for 20 years but have spent the last 9 focusing on professional athletes. Living in the Toronto area, there is a large contingency of hockey players which consumes my summer months, but that gives me the flexibility to focus on Joey’s needs during his off-season.”
Q: Could you beat Joey in a game of chess?
A: No chance. I played him once and he told me afterwards that he knew he won about a quarter of the way through the match. He’s very good.
Nick Kirby joins Matt’s Take
If you enjoy Reds baseball and have a Twitter, you are most likely already following Nick’s account. If not, he is a “must-follow,” as he provides detailed opinions on the Reds and gives intelligent responses to everything regarding the organization. Nick has been given praise on live television from John Sadak and previously was a host of an informative Reds podcast. Nick has been featured on Bleacher Report and is known for his knowledge on all players within the organization. Talking baseball with Nick is a joy and is something I was eagerly looking forward to this offseason.
Q: What position competitions during Spring Training do you believe will be the most interesting?
A: “I think the outfield positions will be the most interesting to watch. Wil Myers and Jake Fraley are locks, but you could make the case there are at least nine other outfielders legitimately competing for spots on the opening day roster (Friedl, Senzel, Pinder, Solak, Benson, Siani, Martini, Plummer and Fairchild). It will be interesting to see how many outfielders the Reds decide to put on the roster, because there are some really good potential platoon advantages they could utilize.”
Q: What is your biggest area of concern with the Reds roster going into the 2023 season?
A: “The biggest area for concern would be if the Reds big three young starting pitchers (Greene, Lodolo and Ashcraft) take a step back. The Reds are absolutely loaded in the farm system with position player talent to where I believe that you could still be optimistic if they have some underachievers in 2023 from guys like Spencer Steer, Jose Barrero or even Jonathan India. The Reds have some nice starting pitching prospects like Chase Petty and Connor Phillips, but the organization would really be climbing an uphill battle for starting pitching depth without positive steps forward for at least two of the three of Greene, Lodolo and Ashcraft.”
Q: What are your thoughts on some of the new MLB rules for the 2023 season?
A: “I am in favor of most of the rule changes. I believe it’s a positive step forward for MLB to be trying to do things to improve the game for casual fans. Most baseball fans are going to love the pitch clock. It made minor league baseball games an absolute joy to watch last year and did not mess up the game at all. I am interested to see what impact the limiting of the shift will do this season.”
Q: What do you believe was the best off-season move from the Reds this year?
A: “Will Benson. The Reds made a couple nice moves this off-season, but Benson was by far my favorite. First, the Reds have him under control until 2029. He has serious potential to help the Reds out immediately in 2023, but he can also grow with the organization. There are some flaws in his game – no question, but he has a fairly high ceiling with his power and speed potential playing his home games at Great American Ballpark.”
Q: What do you believe the Reds Opening Day roster will look like if you had to guess right now?
A: “There will certainly be injuries that will change things, but if everyone was healthy:
Starting Pitchers (5): Greene, Lodolo, Ashcraft, Weaver, Dunn
Relief Pitchers (8): Diaz, Sims, Cessa, Farmer, Sanmartin, Gibaut, Young, Karcher
Catchers (3): Stephenson, Casali, Maile
Infielders (5): Myers, India, Steer, Newman, Barrero
Outfielders (5): Fraley, Friedl, Senzel, Solak, Pinder
I do not believe that Votto will be ready for Opening Day and Wil Myers will mostly play 1B to start the season. I think there is a good chance that several of Overton, Williamson, Cruz, Norris, Romine, Reynolds, Benson and Fairchild find their way on the opening day roster when injuries come up.”
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