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Injury Replacements During a Postseason Series—The Rule and its History

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Divisional Series - St Louis Cardinals v Atlanta Braves - Game One Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Atlanta Braves reliever Chris Martin left Game 1 of the NLDS against the Cardinals after being announced for the top of the 8th but before throwing a pitch in regulation. After throwing a warmup pitch, the Braves’ training staff came out to check on him, and he was seen walking to the dugout while clutching his side. It has been reported that he is expected to miss the rest of the series. What can the Braves do about this? Believe it or not, up until about 10 years ago, they would have had to play short. The rules now allow the Braves to replace Martin on the roster during the series, and I will trace the history of this rule in this article.

Charlie Finley and the 1973 World Series

Game 2 of the 1973 World Series between the Oakland Athletics and New York Mets in Oakland was one of the wackiest in history up that point. The bright sunshine caused outfielders from both teams to miss routine fly balls. There were 11 total pitchers used, which is standard today, but at the time it tied a World Series record. The Athletics came back from a 6-4 deficit in the bottom of the 9th to tie the game, and the rally started when Mets CF Willie Mays tripped over his own feet trying to catch what should have been an easy fly ball. In the top of the 10th with one out and runners at the corners, Felix Millan of the Mets hit a fly ball to medium left-center. Bud Harrelson tagged up and raced for home. Left Fielder Joe Rudi fired a bouncer that beat Harrelson to the plate, but was off line a bit. Although replays would show that Harrelson stood up and eluded catcher Ray Fosse’s tag, the home plate umpire called Harrelson out.

The top of the 12th is when all hell broke loose. The Mets took a 7-6 lead when Willie Mays hit a 2-out RBI single off of Rollie Fingers with runners at the corners. This would be the last hit of Mays’ glorious career. After Cleon Jones singled to load the bases, A’s lefty Paul Lindblad came on in relief. John Milner hit a routine grounder to second base that should have ended the inning, but the ball went right through the legs of A’s second baseman Mike Andrews. Andrews was the 3rd second baseman the A’s used that afternoon, was more known for his hitting than his fielding and had stayed in the game after pinch hitting in the bottom of the 8th. Two more runs scored on the play to give the Mets a 9-6 lead. With runners now at 2nd and 3rd, Jerry Grote grounded a ball that was headed towards the middle. Andrews charged and made a strong and off-balance sidearm throw to 1st. The throw was a little wide to the right of first baseman Gene Tenace, and Tenace had to stretch for it. The umpire would rule that the throw pulled Tenace off the bag, but replays would show that Tenace had the ball with his toe on the bag before being pulled off. But yet another error was charged to Andrews, and the Mets scored another run to take a 10-6 lead. The Mets would go on to win the game 10-7.

A’s owner Charlie Finley was furious. After the game, he summoned the team doctor to conduct a “medical examination” of Andrews. After a cursory look, Finley had a document drafted which stated the doctor’s opinion that Andrews had a chronic shoulder injury and could not play in the rest of the Series. Andrews himself signed it, although he would later say that he was pressured and threatened into doing so. When the team flew to New York for Game 3, Andrews was not on the plane, and he was temporarily replaced on the World Series roster by Manny Trillo, with Andrews being purportedly put on the disabled list. Andrews had shoulder injuries in the past, but he was definitely not too injured to play. Trillo did not play in Game 3, and Andrews’ teammates, appalled at the actions of Finley, constructed Andrews’ #17 out of tape and affixed them to their jerseys in a show of support.

Commissioner Bowie Kuhn investigated and put at stop to these shenanigans. He ordered Andrews reinstated before Game 4 and fined Finley for his actions. Andrews pinch hit in Game 4 and received a standing ovation, after which Finley ordered him benched, and he never played another major league game. Although I know of no previous case where a team tried to replace a player in the middle of a series, it was certainly decreed from that point forward that once a series started, a player could not be replaced, even if he was really injured during that series.

Vince Coleman and the Tarp

While the Cardinal players were on the field in workouts before Game 4 of the 1985 NLCS, the automatic tarpaulin somehow rolled onto Vince Coleman’s leg and knocked him down. Tito Landrum replaced Coleman in left field for Game 4, and the Cards batted 16 times in the second inning to cruise to a 12-2 victory. They then won the next 2 games on dramatic home runs by Ozzie Smith and Jack Clark advance to the World Series. Coleman’s leg could have been crushed by the 1,200 pound tarp and he was in severe pain, but at first his injury was thought to be just a contusion. Not only was Coleman not replaced during the NLCS, but he was not replaced when the Cardinals submitted their World Series roster, as the rules would have allowed. The Cards instead held out hope that their leadoff man and table-setter could recover in time to contribute.

By the time it became clear that Coleman actually had a cracked bone in his leg and would be unable to play any further, the World Series against the Kansas City Royals had already started and Coleman was on the roster. Cardinals Manager Whitey Herzog asked a representative of the Commissioner’s Office for permission to replace Coleman with Curt Ford, but the request was denied. Before Game 4 of the Series, Herzog went right to Commissioner Peter Ueberroth and asked for an explanation.

Herzog asked Ueberroth a hypothetical question. What if the team bus crashed on the way from the hotel to the stadium and 17 players were injured and unable to play? Would the Cards be able to replace any players? Ueberroth told Herzog the Cards would have to forfeit. Herzog claimed that Ueberroth told him that he knew Herzog was right and the rule would be changed the next year. But Ueberroth did not feel that his powers to act in the best interests of baseball empowered him to change a rule midstream, especially when the Cards had a chance to replace Coleman on the World Series roster before the Series started.

Coleman remained on the roster, Willie McGee had to bat leadoff, the Cards had to play a man short, and you know how that World Series turned out.

The 2007 CBA

As it turned out, the rule was not changed in 1986. It would not be changed for over 20 years until 2007, when the owners and the union agreed on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. In that CBA, there were two rules that were changed regarding injury replacements for postseason rosters. Before that time, the rule that allowed injury replacements either before or between series required that a position player be replaced with a position player and a pitcher with a pitcher. That rule was changed to eliminate that requirement and to allow any injured player, regardless of position, to be replaced on the roster by any player, regardless of position. For instance, if a pitcher was on the 60-day disabled list and a Club wanted to replace that pitcher on the postseason roster, a pitcher had to replace him. The same rule prevailed if a pitcher was injured in one round of the playoffs and the Club wanted to replace him in the next round. Before the 2007 CBA, a pitcher had to be the replacement. Now, with the 2007 CBA, the Club could add a position player instead.

In addition, for the first time in MLB history, a rule was enacted that allowed a Club to replace an injured player during a series when the player was actually injured during that series. That rule is still in force today in the form of Major League Rule 40(a)(4).

Rule 40(a)(4)

There are several requirements that must be met before a Club is allowed to replace an injured player during the Series and two important consequences.

  • The Club must get permission from the Commissioner’s Office to make the switch.
  • The player the Club wants to replace must have suffered what the Rule calls an “acute, non-chronic injury or ailment” that occurred after the Club submitted its roster for that particular series. Soreness over time does not count.
  • The Club must provide written proof of the injury, and must notify the Commissioner’s Office far enough in advance to allow for a proper investigation to be conducted. In past cases involving this rule, the Medical Director for MLB, who is a licensed doctor, has reviewed medical records.
  • The Rule does not require the Commissioner to grant the request, and failure to make the request far enough in advance of the next game for a proper investigation to be conducted is grounds for denial. I know of no cases, however, where the request has been denied.
  • The player that the Club wants to use as a replacement must be eligible under the rules. I have an entire article on the postseason eligibility rules here. To boil it down to essentials, the player must have been on the 40-man roster, Military List or Suspended List of a Club and not the MLB Suspended List as of midnight on August 31st. If the player does not meet that criteria, he can still be added if he was in the organization as of midnight on August 31st on a minor league reserve list. In that case, the team must clear a 40-man roster spot for the player, and that would require another player to be traded or designated for assignment. Outright assignment waivers would take too long to secure and placement on the 60-day IL after the regular season is over is against the rules.

There are also two important consequences if the team makes the choice to replace an injured player during a series. First, a pitcher may only be replaced by a pitcher and a position player may only be replaced by a position player. Second, an injured player is not only ineligible to play in the series in which he was replaced, but he is also ineligible to play in the next playoff series should his Club advance that far. Thus, players replaced in the Division Series would not be eligible to return until the World Series. There is an exception to this that involves an acute concussion, but it’s a special rule that has never been applied as far as I can tell. There are also provisions that allow a player to be place on a postseason Paternity or Bereavement/Family Medical Emergency List, but they are also niche rules that have never been applied.

Prior Examples of Injury Replacements During a Series

2008 ALDS

The first player to be replaced during a series was 3B Mike Lowell of the Boston Red Sox in the 2008 ALDS. After starting 2 of the first 3 games against the Anaheim Angels, it was determined that Mike Lowell could not run and could no longer play through his hip strain. Although he had been limited to 1 at-bat in the final 11 games of the regular season, permission was granted to replace Lowell for Game 4 of the ALDS with utility infielder Gil Velazquez. Velazquez had made his major league debut on September 25th of that year and only had 4 days of major league service.

Velazquez did not appear in Game 4 of the ALDS, which the Red Sox won 3-2 on a walkoff single by rookie shortstop Jed Lowrie to send them to the ALCS against the Tampa Bay Rays. With Lowell ineligible for the ALCS, the Red Sox ended up dropping Velazquez from their ALCS roster to add an 11th pitcher, which ended up being Mike Timlin. The Red Sox lost the ALCS in 7 games.

2011 World Series

In Game 6 of the 2011 World Series against the Texas Rangers, the Cardinals tied the game 4-4 in the bottom of the 6th inning when Yadier Molina walked with the bases loaded. Catcher Mike Napoli made a pickoff throw to third baseman Adrian Beltre. Matt Holliday dove back to the bag head first, but Beltre blocked the bag with his right cleat. Holliday sprained his wrist when he made contact with Beltre’s foot and had to leave the game. Allen Craig replaced him in LF for the remainder of the game. Craig homered in the bottom of the 8th to cut the Rangers’ lead to 7-5, made the 2nd out of the 9th inning by striking out before the dramatic triple by David Freese, and grounded out with 2 outs in the bottom of the 10th with 2 runners on and the score tied 9-9. Freese would homer in the bottom of the 11th to force a Game 7.

OF Adron Chambers would replace Holliday on the roster for Game 7. Chambers was already on the 40-man roster, having been a September callup. Chambers did not play in Game 7. Craig started in LF and hit a solo HR in the bottom of the 3rd to give the Cards a 3-2 lead they would not relinquish. He also caught the final out of the winning game. Since there was obviously no series after the World Series, there was no full series that Holliday had to sit out. No the rule does not carry over to the next year’s postseason, in case you were wondering.

2012 NLDS

This instance also involved the Cardinals. Starter Jaime Garcia had missed over two months of the 2012 season with shoulder fatigue, but returned in August to make 9 starts down the stretch. He was removed after pitching only 2 innings in Game 2 of the NLDS against the Washington Nationals with the Cards ahead 4-1. The Cards wound up winning that Game 12-4, and an MRI showed that Garcia had a strained left rotator cuff and inflammation in the shoulder.

The incident caused controversy, as the media reported that there were those in the Cardinal clubhouse that felt that Garcia knew of his shoulder trouble before the game and were angry that he agreed to pitch a pivotal game without reporting it. Others questioned the seriousness of the injury.

The Cards replaced Garcia with Shelby Miller on the roster. Miller had just had his contract purchased by the Cards in September of 2012 as a September callup, and had only pitched in 6 major league games, including a start in the last game of the season. Miller did not pitch in the rest of the NLDS, which the Cards won in dramatic fashion 3 games to 2. Lance Lynn, who pitched out of the bullpen in the NLDS, replaced Garcia in the rotation for the NLCS, with Miller pitching out of the bullpen. Miller allowed 2 runs in 1.1 IP in a Game 2 loss, and pitched 2 scoreless innings in a Game 6 loss. The Cards lost the 2012 NLCS to the Giants in 7 games after being ahead 3 games to 1 and got outscored 20-1 over the final 3 games.

2015 NLDS

In Game 2 of the 2015 NLDS, Chase Utley of the Los Angeles Dodgers made a late slide into New York Mets SS Ruben Tejada in an effort to break up a double play in the bottom of the 7th. Tejada suffered a broken leg on the play and the Dodgers would take the lead in the inning and win the game 5-2. The Mets chose to replace Tejada on their roster with IF Matt Reynolds, who was not on the 40-man roster at the time, and had never appeared in a major league game. RHP Tim Stauffer was designated for assignment to make room for Reynolds, and Reynolds was activated.

Wilmer Flores played the rest of the postseason at shortstop for the Mets. The Mets would go on to beat the Dodgers in 5 games in the NLDS. Reynolds did not appear in rest of the NLDS. The Mets swept the Cubs in 4 games in the NLCS, and Reynolds did not appear in that series either. Reynolds was replaced on the World Series roster by Juan Uribe, who suffered a chest injury toward the end of the regular season that kept him out of action for the first two rounds of the playoffs. The Royals beat the Mets in the World Series 4 games to 1.

2017 ALDS

In the top of the first inning of Game 1 of the NLDS against the Houston Astros, Boston Red Sox DH Eduardo Nunez grounded a ball to 3rd base. He stumbled out of the batter’s box, limped down the line and fell to the dirt before reaching 1st base. Nunez had to be carried off the field due to aggravating a sprained knee ligament. He had missed all but 1 of the team’s last 20 regular season games, but it was thought that he was ready to go.

Nunez was replaced on the roster with OF Chris Young, who served as the DH in Game 2 and went 1 for 2 with a double and a run scored in an 8-2 loss. The Red Sox dropped the series to the Astros 3 games to 1.

2018 ALDS

After Game 1 of the ALDS between the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees, which the Red Sox won 5-4, it was revealed that Red Sox reliever Steven Wright was not available out of the bullpen because he complained of a knee injury. It was determined that Wright had inflammation in his knee and a loose body.

The Red Sox replaced Wright on the roster with Heath Hembree. The Sox beat the Yankees 3 games to 1 in the ALDS with Hembree pitching twice and giving up no hits in 3 IP, but with 3 BB and 2 SO. Hembree pitched just once in the ALCS, which the Red Sox won over the Astros 4 games to 1. He pitched two-thirds of an inning in a Game 1 loss, facing 2 batters, walking one and getting the other to line out with a caught stealing in between.

In the Club’s World Series victory over the Dodgers 4 games to 1, Hembree also pitched only once, this time in a Game 3 loss which lasted 18 innings. He pitched the 12th inning, with no hits and 1 walk allowed.

2018 NLCS

In the 2nd inning of Game 4 of the NLCS against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Milwaukee Brewers’ starter Gio Gonzalez suffered a high ankle sprain while trying to field a ground ball to the mound from Yasiel Puig. Gonzalez had to leave the game. The Dodgers were ahead 1-0 at the time and would go on to win the game 2-1 in 13 innings.

The Brewers replaced Gonzalez with Zach Davies, who would only pitch the bottom of the 8th in a Game 5 loss, giving up 1 hit and no runs in 1 IP. The Brewers would go on to lose the series 4 games to 3.

Conclusion

Losing Chris Martin will be a big blow to the Atlanta Braves, but assuming the Club reported the injury in a timely manner, the blow will be one they will be able to soften a bit. Reports indicate that Julio Teheran will be the injury replacement if the permission is granted. Teheran started 33 games for the Braves this season, but was left off of the initial NLDS roster because the Braves wanted an extra man for the bench and determined that Josh Tomlin would be a better fit for long relief. If added, Teheran will be available immediately, but Martin will be ineligible for the rest of the NLDS and the NLCS if the Braves advance that far.