-- B.King and F.Miv
A: Rule 2(c)(2)(A) of the Major League Rules provides that a club's active roster must be reduced from 40 players to 25 from Opening Day until midnight on August 31. On September 1, clubs are allowed to put anyone on the 40-man roster in a big league uniform for the balance of the big league season. It's sort of a strange rule, in my opinion, as it's possible to see a team, for instance, go with 18 or 20 pitchers on its staff for the most important games of the season. That's an extreme example and teams don't take the opportunity to expand to that extent, but they can. Why give contenders the right to activate that many extra arms, changing game strategy altogether and creating the ability to match up relievers all night long?
Sorry, wrong space. There's no opinionating in rules-based Q&A's.
According to Rule 40(a), a player must be on his club's active big league roster or disabled list (or bereavement list, suspended list, or military list) on August 31 in order to be eligible for post-season play. That's why August 31 turns into a second artificial trade deadline of sorts. If a team can accomplish an August trade by acquiring a player who has cleared revocable waivers (or by placing the prevailing waiver claim on him and then making a deal for him), that player is eligible for the post-season. Example: John Burkett, whom Texas traded for on August 8, 1996.
If the team makes such a deal in September, the player may help his teammates get to the playoffs, but he can't appear once they get there. Example: former Ranger Mike Stanton, whom Boston acquired from Washington for the final weekend of the regular season last year.
Yes, players brought up in September must be on the 40 (but can be added then for that purpose). And yes, their service time counts.
Q: Jamey, how is the winning pitcher determined if the starting pitcher leaves with a lead but has pitched less than the required five innings? For example, why was Wes Littleton credited with the win Friday night? Why not Ryan Rupe or Ron Mahay?
-- Kent A., Oklahoma City, OK
A: Since I got several variations of this question, I decided to address it even though we've otherwise confined this column to procedure rather than in-game rules.
Rule 10.19 of the Official Baseball Rules provides that a starting pitcher can only earn a win if he completes at least five innings (and his team is leading when he exits and maintains the lead the rest of the way), but the official scorekeeper has some discretion in determining which reliever will be credited with the win if the starter goes less than five and the team never relinquishes a lead he entrusted to the bullpen.
According to Rule 10.19(c)(1), the victory in that scenario is to be credited to "the relief pitcher judged by the scorer to have been the most effective."
Kip Wells was pulled in the top of the fourth on Friday when he twisted his left foot. Texas had a 12-4 lead over Seattle when Wells handed the ball to Rupe, who allowed one inherited runner to score and two more runs that were his own property in that frame. Rupe pitched a scoreless fifth, finishing with a line of two runs on four hits (including a home run) in two innings of work.
Three relievers followed Rupe to close out what would be a 14-7 Rangers win: Mahay allowed one hit in a scoreless sixth, fanning one, Littleton permitted an infield hit and nothing more in two shutout frames, and Akinori Otsuka fired a perfect ninth.
The fact that Rupe was the pitcher of record as the fifth ended is irrelevant. The win, by the rules, was to fall to the reliever that the scorekeeper deemed to be the most effective, and Littleton's two nearly perfect innings were enough to convince scorer John Mocek to award the 23-year-old his second big league win.
Q: I'm still not clear about the intricacies/difference between a player being optioned to the Minors and buying a player's contract. Could you explain the different ways a player can move up and down from Oklahoma to the Rangers?
-- Grant C., Abilene, TX
A: Stated concisely, a player is optioned when he is sent from the active big league roster to the Minor Leagues (or assigned to the Minors during Spring Training) but maintains his 40-man roster spot. A player is purchased (rather than recalled) when he's not on the 40-man roster at the time that the organization wants to bring him up to the active big league roster.
It's possible for a player to fit both categories. The latest example was righthander Nick Masset, who was not on the 40-man roster when the season began. (He'd been on the roster before, and while that's irrelevant to this discussion, it does mean there will be significant consequences if the Rangers try again to remove him from the 40. If that dictum has you begging for an explanation, ask me about it for the next Q&A.)
Masset's contract was purchased from Triple-A Oklahoma on June 25 of this year to give the big club an extra bullpen arm between an emergency Robinson Tejeda start on June 24 (after which Tejeda was optioned) and a John Wasdin return from rehab on July 1. Masset pitched a scoreless inning in San Francisco on June 27 and was optioned to Oklahoma on July 1 to make room for Wasdin.
Did I say "stated concisely"?