Editor’s note: Thursday’s game between the Indians and New York Yankees was postponed by rain.
CLEVELAND: When Manny Acta managed the Indians, he complained about having his designated hitter taken away from him for nine or 10 consecutive games.
That’s because there were times when the Tribe would play three series in a row at National League venues, where the only way a DH can get into the ballpark is to buy a ticket.
Things are different this year, not necessarily better, but different. With the Houston Astros joining the American League, there are 15 clubs in each league, necessitating the scheduling of at least one interleague game every day.
The Indians will play 20 games against NL teams, starting with two at Progressive Field against the Philadelphia Phillies April 30 and May 1. Interleague play continues for the Tribe with games in Philadelphia May 14-15.
After four games in May against the Cincinnati Reds, the Washington Nationals will visit Progressive field June 14-16 for three games, marking the beginning of a 6½-week stretch with no games against NL opposition. Nine interleague games remain beginning Aug. 2 against the Miami Marlins.
Manager Terry Francona will not have to deal with a lengthy stretch of games without his DH, but he still feels it is a handicap for American League teams.
Asked if he thinks the game is better with a DH, he said: “I do, and I’m surprised I feel that way. I don’t think I would have felt that way years ago. It puts the American League at a big disadvantage in interleague games, and I wish they would make the DH uniform.”
So does everyone else, except for those who own an NL club, operate an NL front office, manage an NL team or root for an NL club.
The other half of Francona’s dilemma is deciding what his pitchers should do when it’s their turn to bat in NL ballparks.
“We’re trying to figure out who’s going to pitch in the two games against Philly, and we can’t even figure out who’s going to pitch tomorrow [because of the weather],” Francona lamented.
In the past, when interleague play was condensed into a three-week period, AL pitchers began taking batting practice two or three weeks before the first encounter at an NL park.
Now, with the season littered with interleague games, it’s tougher to decide when and how often pitchers should step into the batting cage.
“As we get nearer to the day, our starters will take BP, mostly bunting,” Francona said.
“Relievers won’t take BP. If a reliever has to bat in a game, then I’ve done something wrong.”
Might his starters take batting practice every day, as do National League pitchers?
“No, not every day,” Francona said.
“That’s another 25 minutes … and no, we’re not going to do that.”
Sheldon Ocker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Indians blog at http://www.ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SheldonOckerABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.