At all levels of the minors, extra innings will now start with a runner on second base. And for the stats enthusiasts, the runner on second base will be considered there based on a fielding error but no errors will be counted and it will also not count toward a pitcher's ERA. The pitch clock will increase to 20 seconds when runners are on base.
In addition, pitcher mound visits by anyone will be limited based on the league level. Triple-A teams will be limited to six mound visits per game, with eight for Double-A and 10 for Single-A.
The rules are meant to shorten the length of extra-inning games and the number of mound visits throughout a game, keeping in mind player safety and providing more action for viewers.
But a team without any mound visits left may ask the plate umpire for additional trips to deal with crossed-up pitch signals.
A runner who starts an extra inning at second shall be counted as reaching on an error for purposes of determining earned runs, but no errors shall be charged. The runner at second base will be the player in the batting order position previous to the leadoff batter of the inning. Mound visits do not include discussions between the pitcher and positional player in-between at-bats and "do not require either the position player or the pitcher to relocate", a player visiting the mound to clean his spikes, an injury or visits to the mound after a substitution offensively. The rule that requires a pitcher's removal on the second mound visit by a coach in an inning remains in place.
The average time of a nine-inning game in the minor leagues dropped from 2 hours, 49 minutes in 2014 to 2:43 the following year. The pitcher has that amount of time to start the pitching motion, not to release the ball. 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.
If the pitcher fails to begin his delivery within the allotted times, the batter will be awarded a ball. If he doesn't do it, the batter is awarded a ball.
Back to the runner starting at second base.
The first two weeks of the season will serve as a grace period, with players receiving warnings for violations.
The changes will go into affect on April 20. If the batter doesn't return to the box with 7 or more seconds remaining on the clock, a strike will be called.
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