The Los Angeles Dodgers were prevented from pitching a position player during their half of the ninth inning on Saturday night against the New York Mets after unwittingly violating a recent addition to the rulebook.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts intended to use utility player Zach McKinstry to record the final three outs of the 9-4 contest (box score). The Dodgers, who had already exhausted six pitchers after Walker Buehler was pulled during the third inning in the shortest start of his career, were hoping to avoid further depleting their relief corps heading into Sunday. Nevertheless, the umpires convened before crew chief C.B. Bucknor announced McKinstry could not pitch.
Bucknor's explanation invoked a rule that Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association had agreed upon ahead of the 2020 season that would bar position players from pitching in games with a deficit of five runs or fewer unless they were designated two-way players. (McKinstry is not listed as one.) The rule had not been enforced in either 2020 or 2021 because of the pandemic and concern about player health and safety. That the rule is being enforced this season appeared to sneak under Roberts' radar.
"It's a rule that obviously is in place for 2022. They were talking about it in 2020," Roberts told the Associated Press. "The goalposts have been moving a lot. It's an oversight on my part, but I do recall that we did it last year. They kind of had to confer to make sure that it was the case. They got it right, the umpires."
Roberts was able to move McKinstry to third base, and reliever Evan Phillips was granted unlimited time to warm up before his outing began. After a delay that lasted more than 10 minutes, he would throw a scoreless inning, surrendering one hit and striking out two batters.