There were a few rules changes implemented in an attempt to speed up games during the abbreviated 60-game 2020 schedule: placing an automatic runner on second base in extra innings, the addition of the designated hitter in the National League and seven-inning doubleheaders.
Two months after the season came to a disappointing end for the Nationals, manager Davey Martinez was asked what rules he would keep and which ones would he wants thrown in the Dumpster.
There has been talk that the universal DH will not return in 2021. It is still an important topic of discussion that will need to be decided on between Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association. The Nats skipper said he liked the universal DH.
“Mentally at first, I didn’t really like the DH in the National League,” Martinez said during last week’s zoom video call with reporters. “As we played last year, I kind of got accustomed to it. I liked it. Gives us another bat in our lineup, which was kind of nice.”
A quick way to speed up games that go into extra innings was to provide instant offense by placing a runner in scoring position to start extra innings. Again, Martinez was at first slow to like the new rule. But then he saw how it had potential to save bullpens and he came around.
“The one rule that I’m still on the bubble with is the 10th-inning rule,” Martinez said. “I kind of liked it and then I don’t like it. But when I saw what it could do, it kind of helps us. It helps our pitching staff, especially our bullpen guys. We play 17 innings, and all of a sudden, a guy has done really well, but you use him for two innings and you have to send him down. But as you guys know, I’m an old-school guy. I love the game the way it was played for many, many years. It’s something I had to adjust to. But it went well.”
But the one rule that Martinez liked from the beginning were doubleheaders where only seven innings were required to complete each game.
“I definitely liked the seven-inning doubleheaders a lot,” Martinez said. “Those 2-hour, 20-minute games were really, really nice.”
* Martinez said he is still considering spending a week in the Dominican Republic in January to catch up and check in with center fielder Victor Robles and other Nats playing winter league games. The concern still centers around travel and making sure protocols are set up in countries where he is considering traveling.
The skipper said he has made sure to stay in touch with each player on the roster this offseason, especially his younger players.
“We’ve had a couple of Zoom calls with most of the guys,” Martinez said. “For me, it’s more about the younger players. I have been in contact with the younger players a lot, just to see how they are doing, see what they are doing, keeping them grounded, keeping them focused.
“The veteran guys, most of them have families. They understand what we are going through. These are guys that we spend eight, nine months out of the year (with). At some point, you kind of need to give them a little break and let them do their family thing. But as we move forward, as we get closer, the conversation will start happening once a week with all these guys. Seeing where they are at, seeing what they need. If I could do anything to help them right now, I want them to know that I am readily available to do whatever.
“But they have been good. I spoke to them at the end of the year and told them, ‘Just be safe, keep your families safe, stay healthy and hopefully we will be back on the field come February.’ “
* The Nationals have reportedly signed right-hander Jefry Rodríguez to a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training. Rodríguez was a part of the trade that outfielder Daniel Johnson to the Indians for catcher Yan Gomes.
Rodríguez went 3-3 with a 5.71 ERA in 14 games (eight starts) for the Nats in 2018, and 1-5 with a 4.63 ERA in eight starts for the Indians in 2019.
The Washington Post was first to report the Rodríguez deal.