MiLB announces pace of play rule changes

Minors to open extras with runner on 2nd

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Extra innings during minor league baseball games will now begin with a runner on second base.

The change was announced Wednesday as Minor League Baseball tries to speed up the length of games.

Among other changes coming to minor league ballparks are limited visits to the pitcher's mound and a 15-second pitch clock when no runners are on base.

-For any extra-innings played, each club shall be entitled to one additional non-pitching change mound visit per inning.

The rule change that is likely to make the biggest impact on both ends is that in extra innings, the person in the batting order who is right before the leadoff batter will automatically be on second base.

Major League Baseball had hoped to have a similar rule for spring training and starting in the 11th inning of the All-Star Game but was stymied by the Major League Baseball Players Association, which refused to agree.

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As for saving pitchers, only a handful of position players are ever used to pitch and those are mostly in the eighth or ninth innings of blowouts, not in close extra innings games when pitchers are used up. Each team gets one additional mound visit for each extra inning. Triple-A teams will be limited to six mound visits per game, with eight for Double-A and 10 for Single-A. The pitch clock increases from 15 to 20 seconds when there are runners on base.

MILB notes that the baserunner will be treated as if he reached on an error without actually awarding the defensive team an error - meaning, in the simplest terms, that he won't count toward the pitcher's ERA if he scores.

The timer will start when the pitcher receives the ball on the mound, the catcher is his box and the batter is in the "dirt circle surrounding home plate". Nah, not really, mostly because it nearly ensures that the first action in extra innings will be a sacrifice bunt to get that runner to third, often followed by an intentional walk to set up a double play, and bunts and intentional walks are dumb and unexciting most of the time.

-The timer will stop as soon as the pitcher begins his wind-up, or begins the motion to come to the set position. If he doesn't do it, the batter is awarded a ball. If they fail to, then the base runner will be rewarded a ball. The rules will have a grace period for the first 15 days of the season, until April 20, and only warnings will be given for violations during that time, The Washington Post reported.

"We feel that limiting mound visits and decreasing the amount of time between pitches with no runners on base will further improve the pace of play and make it a more enjoyable experience for our fans", O'Conner said.

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