Sports

MiLB makes changes to speed up pace of play

MiLB makes changes to speed up pace of play

In a move that will surely make some people upset, Minor League Baseball passed rules that are in essence attempts to improve the pace-of-play.

The first change to the Minor League Baseball rulebook is the addition of a rule that is already in place at many other levels of baseball and softball.

The goal is to reduce the number of pitchers used in extra innings, as well address some of the issues that crop up as a result of an extra innings games, like the shortage of players in the games that follow, position players forced to pitch, and the shuffling of pitchers within the organization due to pitching shortages caused by extra innings games.

Effective immediately, each extra inning in the minor leagues will begin with a runner on second base. The players' union agreed not to challenge MLB's decision to institute the rule.

With runners on base, the pitch timer will go from 15 to 20 seconds. Double-A clubs such as the Portland Sea Dogs will be allowed eight mound visits per game by coaches or position players. The runner will be the player that precedes the leadoff hitter in the batting order or a substitute pinch runner.

MiLB also made a change to the pitch clock rules it adopted in 2015 in Triple A and Double A. Pitchers will now be allowed 15 seconds to begin their windup or motion when no runners are on base. That runner will count as an unearned run in the box if they score. If a game enters the extra innings, teams will be award one mound visit for every additional inning.

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But a team without any mound visits left may ask the plate umpire for additional trips to deal with crossed-up pitch signals. "Any runner or batter removed from the game for a substitute shall be ineligible to return to the game". Single-A clubs will be allowed 10 visits per team and there will not be a limit on mound visits for Short Season and Rookie-level clubs.

The biggest change, which actually alters the rules of the game, is the extra-inning rule.

Pitch clocks were first put in use in minor league games three years ago, with pitchers having 20 seconds to come to a set position.

If the pitcher feints a pick off or steps off the rubber with runners on base, the timer shall reset and start again immediately.

The pitcher does not necessarily have to release the ball within 15 seconds, but must begin his wind-up or begin the motion to come to the set position. But if the batter fails to get in the batter's box prior to the 7-second mark, a strike will be awarded.

The announcement says that a 15-day grace period will go into effect from April 5-19 where players will receive warnings.


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