Cubs' Bellinger: New shift restrictions 'opens up' the game
Cody Bellinger said he's excited to see the impact of Major League Baseball's new shift restrictions in action once the 2023 season gets underway.
"It just opens up a completely different part of the game," one of the newest Chicago Cubs additions said during a live taping Wednesday of "The Compound Podcast," hosted by teammate Ian Happ. "Your whole life, growing up, (if) you hit a line drive ... back (at the pitcher) ... that's a hit your whole life. In these last five years, it's an automatic out. ... There's a shortstop right there."
Bellinger, a left-handed hitter, added that getting the ball to shallow right field used to be a sure hit until third basemen started positioning themselves in the spot.
"Now you got Manny Machado standing right there catching everything," Bellinger said.
MLB is introducing shift restrictions in 2023 that will require two infielders stationed on either side of second base. The first baseman and second baseman must be stationed on the first-base side of second, while the shortstop and third baseman must patrol the third-base side of second. All four infielders must have both feet within the dirt boundary of the infield when the pitcher is on the rubber.
The restrictions could have a greater impact on left-handed hitters, who face shifts more frequently.
"What I'm most excited for, I think, and I don't know how exactly it's going to look and how it's going to work, but I think it's going to bring a lot of athleticism back into the game," Bellinger said. "These infielders are going to have to cover a lot of ground and show off what they can do as opposed to standing where the ball is probably going to be hit. For me, as a baseball fan, I think that's pretty exciting."
Bellinger, 27, joined the Cubs on a one-year, $17.5-million deal earlier this winter after being non-tendered by the Los Angeles Dodgers. The two-time All-Star spent six years with the Dodgers, winning the 2019 NL MVP and hitting .248/.332/.487 with 152 homers and 62 stolen bases over 745 games. His production tapered off over the past two seasons due to shoulder, calf, hamstring, and rib injuries.
In an effort to speed up the game and create more on-field action, the league is also introducing a pitch clock, limits for pickoff attempts from pitchers, and larger bases for the forthcoming campaign.