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MLB expands rosters, brings back ghost runner

A few rule changes have been reported a few weeks before Opening Day.

Division Series - San Francisco Giants v Los Angeles Dodgers - Game Four Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Opening Day is just two and a half weeks away for the San Francisco Giants, and suddenly baseball’s rules are a tiny bit different than they were yesterday. On Tuesday, Joel Sherman of the NY Post reported three rule changes for the 2022 season — one of them is awful, one of them doesn’t impact the Giants, and one of them certainly does.

Let’s break them down one-by-one, in that order.

The awful rule

Congratulations, trusty baseball fan, you’ve been played. You finally thought that the ghost runner — the free runner placed on second base in every extra inning — was gone.

But alas. Despite the rule being eliminated after the 2021 season, it’s now coming back for its third run in 2022.

It was rumored for a few weeks that the Players Association would be amenable to bringing the rule back for another year and here it is. The reasoning for the ghost runner is simple: with a truncated Spring Training, shorter games means less wear and tear on players.

I don’t like it. You don’t like it. But it’s back.

It’s just a one-year return for the rule, though the willingness from both sides to implement it suggests that it could become a permanent rule soon.

The rule that doesn’t impact the Giants (yet)

It’s always fun when one player is so good and impactful that a rule is changed just for them. That’s the case with Shohei Ohtani, one of the most remarkable baseball players to come around in ages.

Ohtani, the reigning AL MVP, had one of the best offensive seasons in baseball a year ago ... all while being a well above-average starting pitcher. And now he has a rule named after him, which will allow starting pitchers to become the designated hitter after they’re done pitching. Previously no pitchers were allowed to switch to the DH “position,” to keep teams from using one pitcher as a DH and essentially switching between two pitchers to get a handedness advantage.

Instead, if teams want to use multiple pitchers, they have to get funky, like when the Giants put Cory Gearrin in left field for a left-handed batter before returning him to the mound against a righty.

But by allowing the starting pitcher to transition to the DH, Ohtani — arguably the best player in baseball — will be able to easily stay in the game after he’s thrown his last pitch.

Seems like a pretty good rule, and it will be implemented through the duration of the current collective bargaining agreement.

The rule that does impact the Giants

It was only recently that MLB bumped active rosters up to 26 spots ... and now they’re temporarily pushing them to 28. To help make up for the shortened preseason, teams will be able to have a 28-player active roster for the entirety of April, with no cap on how many of those players are pitchers. Once May rolls around, the active roster size will decrease back to 26, and the maximum of 13 pitchers will return.

This is pretty meaningful for the Giants for two reasons. The first is that Farhan Zaidi and Scott Harris love few things more than roster churn and playing with matchups. Having two more roster spots to play with gives them that much more ammo. The second is that the Giants have a handful of players who could be contributors this season but are out of options, namely Steven Duggar, Thairo Estrada, Mauricio Dubón, and Tyler Beede. None of those four have guaranteed roles in 2022 (despite excellent seasons in 2021 by Duggar and Estrada), and expanded rosters gives the Giants more opportunity to give those players some run.

Real baseball is right around the corner, folks. With its good rules and its bad ones.