Scott Boras had heard commissioner Rob Manfred’s comments about limiting the use of relief pitchers. And Boras, the agent for a number of the game’s biggest stars, had a few things he wanted to say.
The critics of Manfred’s idea already included Yankees manager Joe Girardi, who told reporters that restrictions would be too "drastic," and Red Sox manager John Farrell, who expressed concern that such limitations would "artificially control the game."
Boras told FOX Sports that his problem with reducing the use of relievers is that it would increase the burden on young starters who already are at risk of injury.
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"The primary focus should be on the preservation of greatness in our game," Boras said. "If there are 20 great relievers in this game that have an impact, that’s not an irregularity. That’s a utilized reality of the game, with the design and focus by organizations to put great talent in those roles.
"They’re all looking for more, not less of them. Frankly, we need them because we’ve got an issue. We’ve got a number of precocious stars entering our game under the age of 25 who are making jumps from 90 innings in the minor leagues or 90 innings in the big leagues, and they’re required to throw 180 or 200 innings. Those innings jumps have been perilous for many. We have many examples to draw on.
"(The late) Dr. (Lewis) Yocum said it best. The eye test is not taught in medical school. And the more innings that we place upon these young players …. relief pitchers are the answer. We should have an expanded roster to 26 or 27 so we can call up a young pitcher who is 21 and have him throw 120 innings. And then the next year 150. And then the next year 180. We want greatness at 25 pitching at 35. Not done at 28."
We want greatness at 25 pitching at 35. Not done at 28.
Manfred, in an interview on ESPN Radio Thursday, responded to a fan suggestion about limiting the number of relievers a team could use in an inning or game, saying the change could help improve the pace of play.
"I am in favor of something like that," Manfred said. "We’ve spent a ton of time on this issue in the last few months.
"You know the problem with relief pitchers is that they’re so good. I’ve got nothing against relief pitchers, but they do two things to the game: The pitching changes themselves slow the game down, and our relief pitchers have become so dominant at the back end that they actually rob action out of the end of the game, the last few innings of the game."
Boras took vehement exception to those remarks, saying, "retaining greatness is far more important than the pace of the game."
Mets right-hander Matt Harvey, Nationals righty Stephen Strasburg and Marlins right-hander Jose Fernandez are among the Boras clients who have undergone Tommy John surgery in recent years.
Making it easier for teams to lighten the workload of young starters, Boras said, would be "good for the business, good for the game."
"When managers have 900 starting innings and 500 relief innings, they may want to have an extra reliever pick up 70 or 80 extra innings to get 120 or 150 innings out of a great young pitcher in his first or second year," Boras said.
"When young starters are that great, we’re going to see issues where once they make that jump of 50 to 60 innings. There’s a great concern whether or not they’re going to be durable in their second or third seasons. We’re seeing that occur throughout the game."