Miami Marlins

Don Mattingly calls for roster limits after Marlins, Phillies set unusual MLB record

Miami Marlins manager Don Mattingly looks on during the ninth inning of a Major League Baseball game against the Chicago Cubs at Marlins Park on Friday, March 30, 2018 in Miami.
Miami Marlins manager Don Mattingly looks on during the ninth inning of a Major League Baseball game against the Chicago Cubs at Marlins Park on Friday, March 30, 2018 in Miami.

Manager Don Mattingly called for a change in September roster rules after the Marlins and Phillies set an unusual major league record on Saturday.

The two teams combined to use 15 pitchers -- seven for the Marlins and eight for the Phillies -- not one of which stepped up to the plate to bat. And that, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, had never happened before in a big-league game in the “Modern Era” (since 1900) that didn’t involve a designated hitter, no matter the number of pitchers used.

“What we did today and really what they ended up doing, too, is something that really only happens in September and, quite honestly, shouldn’t be able to happen,” Mattingly said after the Marlins’ quirky 5-4 loss to the Phillies. “It’s too many guys. It’s not really regular baseball.”

Teams are allowed to carry no more than 25 players on their active rosters the first five months of the season. After Sept. 1, they’re permitted to expand that number by up to 40.

The Marlins presently have 34 players on their roster. The Phillies have 39.

And therein lies the problem, Mattingly said.

“I think it’s more that the game you play for five months is not the same game you play in September,” Mattingly said.

On Saturday, the Marlins started with 12 players in their bullpen when typically they might have only eight. The Phillies’ bullpen was even more crowded. They had 15 relievers primed and ready.

Due to injuries and weather-related issues earlier in the week, Mattingly had already decided to use a cast of relievers against the Phillies on Saturday.

He sent Jarlin Garcia to the mound to start the game but yanked him for a pinch-hitter in the second inning. Before it was over, Mattingly used six different relievers.

Phillies manager Gabe Kapler, meanwhile, used seven pitchers in relief of starter Vince Velasquez. But his decisions were dictated by the game itself, not a pre-determined plan. The Phillies are still in playoff contention and every game is critical. After the Phillies fell behind 4-0 in the second, Kapler used every weapon at his disposal, pinch-hitting any chance he could and bringing in one reliever after another in a desperate attempt to get back into the game.

It worked. The Phillies rallied for the win.

“Definitely an unusual game,” Mattingly said. “Both teams ended up doing the same thing.”

It was only the fourth nine-inning game in big-league history in which no pitcher for either team recorded more than six outs, according to Elias, the Official Statistician of Major League Baseball.

Three of those took place in September.

Mattingly said MLB should consider capping the number of available players at 25 in September but allow teams to carry a “taxi squad” of anywhere from three to five players that can be moved on and off the roster on a daily basis.

The extra players would still be paid and receive big-league service time, just like any other player, Mattingly said.

Games in September would then become more of “a normal, regular-style game,” Mattingly said.

“I’ve said it before,” Mattingly said. “I’d be in favor of more of a taxi squad. You have your 25 guys that would be eligible for the playoffs -- activate three, four or five -- and then you’re going to play more of a normal style. And you can move those guys around everyday.”

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