How will shift rule impact Mariners? Infield coach Perry Hill explains

Jan 24, 2023, 1:30 PM
Mariners J.P. Crawford...
Mariners shortstop J.P. Crawford makes a play against the Detroit Tigers on Oct. 4, 2022. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

Mariners infield coach Perry Hill has a sterling reputation around MLB for how much he’s helped players with their defensive ability, but he’ll have his work cut out for him this season.

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That’s because MLB has several new rules for 2023 that will impact infielders, the most important being limitations on how teams can shift their defense. Before each pitch, two infielders must be on either side of second base – so no more shortstops crossing to the right side or second basemen on the left side. Infielders also must have both feet on the infield dirt.

How is Hill approaching this season with those changes?

“First-step quickness is going to be a must for our guys,” Hill said last week on the Mariners Hot Stove, which airs from 7-9 p.m. each Tuesday night on Seattle Sports 710 AM.

That goes for Seattle shortstop J.P. Crawford as well as second basemen Kolten Wong and Dylan Moore.

“For instance, (if) a left-handed hitter (is batting), J.P. can’t go over on the other side any more so he can stay on his side close to second (base), but now he’s gonna have to range to his left to try to cover if that ball is hit where he would have been standing last year,” Hill said. “Same thing for Kolten (and Moore) – if there’s a right-handed hitter up, he’s gonna be close to second base, J.P. is gonna probably be in the hole so that ball’s hit 10 or 15 feet on the shortstop side of second base, Kolten and Dylan Moore are going to have to work on their first step and their quickness and be able to backhand those balls and hopefully convert them to outs.

“… It’s going to be very different and range is going to be a factor in this coming year.”

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How quick will the Mariners be able to adjust to the rule change?

“It’s going to be a little experimentation in spring training, and we may tweak it here and there,” Hill said. “… I think we’ll be comfortable with it maybe by the second week of games. There’s gonna be a little feel-out period, and there may be some balls hit that we don’t get to at first because things are new and positioning will be become a key factor in that. But I think as we get into the first five or six days of groundball work and putting all of our defensive plays in and then get us a week or two of game situations, I think we’ll figure it out before the season starts.”

There will be a lot of attention on Wong, a two-time Gold Glove winner at second base who came to the Mariners in an offseason trade with the Milwaukee Brewers. He dealt with injuries in each of the past two seasons and his defensive numbers fell way down from his career marks in 2022, but there has been optimism from Wong and others than his fielding will bounce back in 2023.

Hill is clearly excited to get to work with Seattle’s newest starting infielder.

“I’ve talked to Kolten through the years (from) crossing paths a lot, and I’ve always told him I’d like to get him to be on our team someday – whether that was when I was in Miami (from 2013-18) and then of course over here in Seattle,” Hill said. “We almost got him before… so it took us a while but we got him over here. We’ve talked a few times. He’s very athletic and a quality second baseman, but I have not seen him day in and day out. He mentioned to me a couple of things that he would like to work on, so we’ll figure out what those are and what he’s talking about, and that ball will be bouncing off the wall early in spring in the mornings.”

Hill had much more insight to share during the interview with Mariners broadcasters Rick Rizzs, Gary Hill Jr. and Shannon Drayer, which you can listen to in the podcast at this link or in the player below.

The Mariners Hot Stove will air on Seattle Sports 710 AM and Mariners Radio Network affiliates from 7-9 p.m. every Tuesday until spring training, which begins in late February. During spring training, you will then be able to hear a weekly edition of the Cactus League Report. You can also find podcasts of each edition at this link or by subscribing on your favorite app.

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