Houston, TX – The Astros ended their intrasquad game on Thursday evening by simulating the extra-inning rule that will be in place this season.
The new twist goes into effect in the 10th inning. Each team will start an inning with an automatic runner at second base – the batter who made the final out in the previous inning – in an attempt to end games more quickly.
Outfield prospect Ronnie Dawson was placed at second base to start an inning at Minute Maid Park, and he eventually scored without a batter reaching base. Dawson went to third on a check-swing grounder by Taylor Jones and scored when Jake Meyers hit a chopper up the middle with the infield in.
Astros manager Dusty Baker said hitting coach Alex Cintron is familiar with the rule because it was used when he was managing in Puerto Rico in the winter. “It is kind of weird,” Baker said. “I’ve seen it in a couple of Minor League games. We just try to simulate every situation that you’re going to run into during the season. Some of the guys are asking if it counts on your batting average, does it count on RBIs, does the pitcher get the loss? Some of the pitchers are curious about do they get the ERA increase and all kinds of stuff. It’s still a work in progress.”
In terms of strategy, Baker said if the visiting team doesn’t score in the top of an extra inning, it would be wise for the home team to play for one run, which, of course, would win the game. That could mean someone dropping a bunt. He said the visiting team won’t be in a position to play for just one run, though. “That’s kind of like kicking a field goal [in overtime] when they get the ball [first] and the other team can score a touchdown,” he said. “You might do it as the home team, but you probably won’t do it, I think, as the visiting team.”
The reason teams will be able to carry 30 players, which undoubtedly will be mostly pitchers, to begin the season this year is because starting pitchers, for the most part, won’t be built up quite yet. Though pitchers were throwing on their own all over the country during the shutdown, the three-week Summer Camp doesn’t provide much opportunity for game-like stress.
Astros pitcher Zack Greinke, pitching in a simulated game for the second time, threw 54 pitches to work into the fourth inning before running out of gas. The good news for Greinke is he’ll have one more intrasquad outing before his first regular-season start, which has yet to be determined. He said he wasn’t in mid-season form Thursday but felt pretty good.
“Today, I really got tired in the last inning,” Greinke said. “So next time we’ll try for 75 [pitches] or so, but it’s possible it will only be 60. Possible it will be 80. I don’t know. I’m hoping for more than 50.” Greinke said his changeup and curveball still need work, but arm strength is the goal in camp.
Considering he reported to Summer Camp earlier this week following the birth of his daughter, Josh James’ 64-pitch effort in the intrasquad game was a testament to how he had kept his arm in shape while working out at his Florida home. The outing marked James’ first in an intrasquad game during camp.
“I felt great,” he said. “I felt like I did a lot of good things today. There’s a couple of pitches I wish I could have gotten back. In a real game, there’s always going to be that unless you throw a perfect game. There are some things I wish I would have been able to do a little bit better with command at times. First time out in a game setting for me in a long time, I thought I threw really well.”
James, who has the stuff to touch 101 mph, will be in the rotation to start the year, so he doesn’t need that kind of gas. He was sitting at 95-98 mph with his fastball during the intrasquad game and said he still has 100 mph in his back pocket if he needs it.
“I think that’s something that’s going to come with the game, you know?” he said. “If I need it, then I know it’s there. I don’t want to try to overthrow because I lose the command. I don’t want to try to go and get it unless I really need it. I know it’s there, so when I need it, I’ll go get it.”
James’ final Summer Camp outing will come in an exhibition game Tuesday, when he starts at Kansas City. Houston will host the Seattle Mariners on Friday, July 24 in the Astros’ home opener. First pitch is scheduled for an 8:10 p.m. start at Minute Maid Park.