MLB, Atlantic League push back two experimental playing rules and equipment initiatives

LANCASTER — Two of the experimental playing rules and equipment initiatives that Major League Baseball wishes to test during Atlantic League games in 2019 have been adjusted, the two organizations announced Wednesday.

The use of radar tracking technology to assist the home plate umpire in calling balls and strikes will now be implemented over the course of the season, rather than on Opening Day, which is set for Thursday, April 25, the news release said.

Secondly, the plan to extend the distance between the pitching rubber and home plate by 24 inches has been delayed from the second half of this coming season to sometime during the 2020 campaign, the news release added.

“Our partnership with Major League Baseball calls for ongoing mutual consultation. As we conduct discussions and work together, certain adjustments will need to be made on an ongoing basis in order to serve the partnership’s priority of providing the best possible data to Major League Baseball in the highly competitive Atlantic League environment,” said Rick White, President of the Atlantic League. “This is, and will remain, a thoughtful relationship intended to best serve the future of the game of baseball.”

The five remaining experimental playing rules and equipment initiatives are still expected to be implemented on Opening Day:

  • No mound visits permitted for players or coaches, other than for pitching changes or medical issues
  • Pitchers must face a minimum of three batters, or reach the end of an inning, before they exit the game (unless the pitcher becomes injured)
  • The size of first, second and third base will be increased from 15 inches square to 18 inches square
  • Two infielders are now required to be on each side of second base when a pitch is released. (If not, the ball is dead and the umpire shall call a ball). This rule eliminates the possibility of shifting multiple infielders to one side of the field to combat dead-pull hitters
  • Time between innings and pitching changes will reduced from 2:05 to 1:45
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