When can a position player pitch in a MLB game?

Over the past few seasons, there’s been an increase of instances in which MLB position players have stepped up to pitch in blowout games. While doing this does allow managers to save pitchers in blowout games, these instances have never usually proved to be pretty. Heading into the 2023 season, the rules regarding putting position players in as pitchers will change.

Related: What is the MLB ghost runner rule, and is it permanent?

Position Players as Pitchers

In February 2023, the MLB Joint Competition Committee met to deliberate on rule changes. One such rule that was modified was the criteria in which a position player could head to the mound. Per the rule change, teams that are losing can only use a position player to pitch in the ninth inning while trailing by eight runs or more. Prior to the change, teams could insert a position player on the mound in a six-run deficit or larger.

Teams that are are winning can use a position player on the mound in the ninth inning, while up by ten runs or more. Additionally, either team can use a position player to pitch at any point in extra innings.

The primary purpose of using a position player on the mound is to save pitchers from unnecessary usage or an injury, in situations where a lead is essentially insurmountable. We’ve seen some interesting moments of position players on the mound in recent year. Legendary first baseman Albert Pujols logged an inning in a blowout win for St. Louis back in 2022. Then, there’s Anthony Rizzo. In 2021, then-Cub Anthony Rizzo struck out Braves star Freddie Freeman in an April 2021 game between Chicago and Atlanta.

However, these situations have become far too commonplace in recent years. There were 132 instances of a position player being sent to the mound in 2022, up from 32 back in 2017.

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