NEW BRITAIN - The Atlantic League unleashed a wave of new changes to its game when teams returned from the All-Star break, unveiling the next chapter of changes as part of the league’s partnership with MLB.
It didn’t take long for a number of those changes to present themselves in games that involved the New Britain Bees.
Back on July 14, the Atlantic League acknowledged Somerset Patriots outfielder Jimmy Paredes as the first player to “steal” first base when he struck out on a pitch from Jed Bradley for what normally would have been an out, considering first base was already occupied. The new rules, however, allowed Paredes to take off for first and put two runners on in a game that the Patriots won in a rout.
Just days later back in New Britain, the Bees confronted the game’s latest tweaks once again. In the top of the first in game two of a doubleheader against the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs, Southern Maryland outfielder Joe Benson began his swing against Bees starter Devin Burke, but attempted to pull back when the pitch broke out of the zone. Benson’s wrists appeared to give as his bat broke the plane of home plate, but upon appeal to first base umpire John Grasso, the pitch was ruled a ball and out to the top step of the dugout came Bees manager Mauro Gozzo, who argued it should have been ruled a strike.
“With the new rule, it isn’t [a strike]!” Grasso yelled back to Gozzo.
One of the Atlantic League’s new rule changes prompted umpires to be more lenient with check swings, specifically in the hitter’s favor, but Gozzo wasn’t happy with that specific ruling.
“That’s a strike,” Gozzo said. “That should be. Let’s not make a mockery out of the game. The check swing is something that should be checked, and turns out he didn’t go very far. If the guy goes three quarters, just because he didn’t take a full hack doesn’t mean he didn’t go.”
In a leveling of the playing field, the Bees were on the desirable end of a recent rule change when Bijan Rademacher pushed a two-strike bunt attempt into foul ground in the bottom of the sixth of the same game. Of course, in MLB, that would be ruled a strikeout, but now, in the Atlantic League, the hitter is allowed one fouled bunt attempt with two strikes. Later in the at-bat, Rademacher ripped a double.
Those changes are only part of the new-look Atlantic League, where pitchers may only attempt pickoff throws when their foot is off the rubber and bases are enlarged to hopefully create more traffic and safety on the bases. The downpour of changes in so little time may be hard for players and managers to become accustomed to, but they all serve a purpose, and the Bees want to understand each one.
“The one rule with the pickoffs, that’s gonna be the one that’s the most effective,” Gozzo said. “You’re going to see more stolen base attempts, so pitchers will have to quicken their move to the plate. Advancing to first with a steal, I don’t think you’ll see that one very much at all. There has to be a certain situation where a guy is going to do that and take an 0-for-1.”
Gozzo, listing off the new rules, then paused as he mentally checked off the various changes to the Atlantic League.
“What ones am I forgetting?” he asked.
It’s an understandable mental hiccup, considering how many changes have been thrown the Bees way over the past two weeks. Changes are here, and the Bees are adapting, though some transitions have been easier than others.
Ryan Chichester can be reached at (860) 801-5094 or email@example.com