Sources: MLB to vote on rule changes Friday
5: 09 PM ET
Jesse RogersESPN Staff Writer
- Jesse joined ESPN Chicago in September 2009 and covers MLB for ESPN.com.
The Major League Baseball competition committee is set to vote Friday on rule changes that would begin in 2023 and include a first-ever pitch clock, the elimination of the shift, bigger bases and a limit to how many times a pitcher can disengage from the rubber, according to sources familiar with the situation.
The goal is to increase action on the field, quicken the pace and reduce the amount of time it takes to play a major league game. The rule changes are expected to pass and include the following:
A 15-second pitch clock with the bases empty and a 20-second clock with runners on
Two disengagements from the rubber — including pickoff attempts — per plate appearance
A requirement by hitters to be in the batter’s box and “alert” with eight seconds to go on the clock. Hitters are allowed one timeout per plate appearance
Only two infielders will be allowed on each side of second base, with all four required to be on the dirt (or inner grass)
Infielders cannot position themselves on the outfield grass before the pitch is thrown
Bases will increase in size from 15 inches squared to 18
Major League Baseball is reacting to extensive research it has done through fan and player surveys over the past several years while testing the changes at all levels of the minor leagues. The league believes that the changes will help to even the playing field for hitters and make the game more entertaining.
The clock will start when the pitcher receives the ball from his catcher or the umpire — and play is ready to resume. The clock will start after each pitch most of the time. However, it might take a moment for a runner or a ball boy/girl to clear the field or for the pitcher to receive the ball from his catcher. A buzzer will be placed on umpires to indicate that the pitch clock is over. This will allow them to call a ball. A strike will be issued if hitters aren’t available within eight seconds. Each hitter will only be allowed one timeout for each plate appearance. Mound visits are limited to 30 seconds unless due to injury.
Pitchers can step off the rubber twice per plate appearance without penalty, but after a third step-off — which does not result in a pickoff — a balk will be called. A pitcher can throw to first base up three times without penalty, but the third attempt must result in an out or the runner gets to advance. When a runner reaches a new base, the disengagement rule is reset. A third step-off, if there are no runners, would result in a visit to the mound.
Umpires will monitor infielders to make sure they are properly aligned before the ball leaves a pitcher’s hand. Infielders, just like receivers in a football game can ask umpires to verify that they are properly positioned. There are two infielders on each side of the second base and no one allowed on the outfield grass. If a pitch is thrown in violation of the new shift regulations, the hitting team has the option to choose whether the play will be deemed successful or not. This is the only rule change that could be reviewed. If one of the infielders is injured, they cannot change positions within an inning.
The increase in the size of the bases should reduce injuries around them while increasing stolen base attempts. Both of these outcomes were observed in minors who tested larger bases.
ESPN’s Jeff Passan contributed to this report.
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