Major League Baseball competition committee to vote on rule changes Friday with eye on quickening pace of play, sources say

Major League Baseball’s competition committee will vote Friday on rule changes that would begin in 2023 and include a first-ever pitch clock, the elimination of the shift, larger bases and a limit on how many times a pitcher can come off the rubber, according to sources, who are familiar with the situation.

The goal is to increase the action on the field, increase the pace and reduce the time it takes to play a major league game. The rule changes are expected to be passed and will include the following:

  • A 15 second pitch clock with empty sockets and a 20 second clock with runners

  • Two releases from the rubber – including pickoff attempts – per plate appearance

  • A requirement for hitters to be in the batter’s box and “alert” eight seconds before the clock runs out. Hitters are allowed one time out per plate appearance

  • Only two infielders are 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 turf before the pitch is thrown

  • The bases grow from 15 square inches to 18 inches

Major League Baseball is responding to extensive research it has conducted through fan and player surveys over the past few years, while also testing the changes at all levels of the minor leagues. With technological advances for pitching and defense over the past decade, the league believes the changes are a way to level the playing field for batsmen while also creating a more entertaining defensive product.

pitch clock

The clock starts when the pitcher receives the ball from his catcher or the umpire – and play can continue. Most often this is after each pitch, but there can also be a moment, for example, when a runner returns to a pocket or a ball boy or girl clears the field. The umpires have a buzzer to indicate that the pitch clock has expired, resulting in a ball being called. If batsmen are not ready for eight seconds on the clock, a strike is called. Each batsman is allowed one timeout per plate appearance. Hill visits are limited to 30 seconds unless there is an injury.

rubber disengagements

Pitchers can leave the surface twice per plate appearance without penalty, but after a third step-off – which does not result in a pickoff – a balk is called. In other words, a pitcher can throw to first base up to three times, but the third attempt must result in an out or the runner may advance a base. The retreat rule resets when a runner reaches a new base. Without a runner, a third jump would result in a hill visit.

The postponement

The umpires monitor the infielders to ensure they line up properly before the ball leaves a pitcher’s hand. Like receivers in a football game, infielders can ask umpires if they are set up correctly, requiring two infielders on each side of the second and none allowed on the outfield turf. If a pitch is thrown while the defending team is in violation of the new shift rules, the batting team can choose the result of the following game or a ball for the batsman. This is the only play of the new rules that could be checked. Infielders cannot change positions in an inning unless one of them is substituted.

Bigger bases

Enlarging bases should reduce injuries around them while also increasing the number of base attempts stolen. Both results occurred in the minors when the larger bases were tested.

ESPN’s Jeff Passan contributed to this report. Major League Baseball competition committee to vote on rule changes Friday with eye on quickening pace of play, sources say

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