Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association have agreed to a 14-pitcher limit on active rosters between May 2 and May 29, the league announced this morning. As previously announced, the active rosters will still shrink from 28 players to 26 on May 2.
The league and union agreed to expand active rosters by a pair of players for the season’s first couple weeks this year. That was in response to the shortened Spring Training period that followed the lockout, with concerns that players did not have enough time to prepare for a typical regular season workload right out of the gate. That was particularly true of pitchers, who require a few weeks to gradually build their pitch counts.
Alongside the temporary roster expansion came a relaxation of the league’s 13-pitcher limit, which is being put into effect for the first time this year. Initially enacted over the 2019-20 offseason, that provision was suspended in each of the past two seasons as part of the COVID-19 health and safety protocols. It’ll make its debut in 2022, although the full extent now won’t come into play until Memorial Day.
Today’s announcement marks a small change to afford clubs a bit more freedom in managing their pitching staffs, although they’ll still have to make some cuts next Monday. Teams will need to reduce their roster by two players six days from now, and even the higher 14-pitcher threshold will force a change from the early-season status quo. The pitcher limit was scrapped entirely through May 2, and many teams had carried 15 or even 16 arms in the early going as they stockpiled bullpen options.
Along with the expanded rosters, the league and union agreed in March to delay the implementation of the new option limits and the return of the 15-day injured list for pitchers. Teams can no longer option a player to the minor leagues more than five times in a given year, and pitchers who go on the IL for non-COVID reasons will have to miss at least 15 days instead of 10 this season. Neither change was in effect through the season’s first month as the league and union afforded teams more flexibility with their pitching staffs. Today’s announcement from the league made no mention of further delay to either of those features’ implementations, however, which seems to suggest they’re still set to take effect next Monday as originally scheduled.