ST. PETERSBURG — Veteran Rays pitcher Rich Hill has concerns about a Major League Baseball-backed plan to move pitching mounds back a foot on an experimental basis in the independent Atlantic League.
One is the potential injury-risk to pitchers, who are used to throwing at the standard distance of 60 feet, 6 inches from home plate. Another concern is how independent league players, who have no recourse or union protection, will be used in the process. Thirdly, why?
“Totally an opportunity ... by MLB to take advantage of the independent league that doesn’t really have any leg to stand on,” Hill said. “And it’s 100 percent something that the Atlantic League, or any independent league, is obviously going to take any funding or kind of opportunity that they can get, because they need that.
“You’re also putting at risk the health and safety of players that they could really care less about, and that’s something that is wrong. So you want to move it back? What are the consequences of that? And why are we doing that?”
The idea is to see if the small change limits the dominance of pitchers and allows hitters to put more balls in play. In announcing the change, which will go into effect for the second half of the independent league season, MLB cited a 2019 study using college pitchers from distances of 60 feet, 6 inches; 62-6; and 63-8; with no significant differences in mechanics or increased injury risk.
Hill, who played briefly in the Atlantic League in 2015, said he worries pitchers won’t have any choice but to go along with the plan. “I certainly disagree with putting other players — just because they’re not at the major-league level, or they don’t have a union, or they don’t have anybody to kind of protect them — to put their careers at risk,” he said.
Archer’s generous gesture
Rays pitcher Chris Archer is among more than 100 big-leaguers donating their Thursday Jackie Robinson Day pay to The Players Alliance. The group, which seeks to improve representation of Black Americans in the game, will donate the money to several causes, including a scholarship fund through the Jackie Robinson Foundation and equipment distribution. ... All players and coaches will wear Robinson’s No. 42, with the jerseys and caps available via raysbaseball.com/auctions.
The Rays seem set up to use Michael Wacha (maybe behind an opener), Tyler Glasnow and Ryan Yarbrough for the weekend road series against the Yankees, but Cash said plans are not final. The Yankees are planning on a spot starter Friday (Michael King or Deivi Garcia are options), then lefty Jordan Montgomery on Saturday and ace Gerrit Cole on Sunday.
• Brandon Lowe’s homer leading off the ninth was his first this season and first since Sept. 23, 2020, ending a career-high 47 at-bat stretch (over regular-season games) without.
• The Rays lost back-to-back home games for the first time since Aug. 19-20, 2019.
• The 68 runs the Rays have allowed are the most for their first 12 games since the Devil Rays days of 2007.
• Centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier (quad strain) had another good workout and will take some live at-bats Thursday, with the potential to be activated by early next week. Archer, sidelined with forearm tightness, played light catch Wednesday but, Cash said, “still feels it a little bit.’'
• In adding Josh Fleming, the Rays kept reliever Trevor Richards and sent down infielder Kevin Padlo, leaving them with 14 pitchers and 12 hitters. Cash said they needed the extra innings coverage in a stretch of playing 13 straight days.
• Yoshi Tsutsugo said he felt some pressure in the leadoff spot, where he had hit in his first seven games, and was more comfortable down in the order, batting sixth Tuesday and seventh Wednesday. He struck out twice and has 16 Ks in 38 at-bats.
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