MLB, Atlantic League announce four new playing rules for second half of season

LANCASTER — The second half of the Atlantic League season kicks off Friday. And with that, comes four new experimental playing rules.

Major League Baseball and the Atlantic League made the latest rules announcement Thursday, a day after the league All-Star Game. The rules are vague but are as followed:

  • Pitcher is required to step off the rubber in order to attempt a pickoff
  • One (1) foul bunt is permitted with two strikes before a strikeout is called
  • Batters may “steal” first base on any pitch not caught in flight (the batter can be thrown out if he attempts to run)
  • “Check swing” rule made more batter-friendly

These rules join seven other initiatives that were announced prior to the 2019 season, when Major League Baseball and the Atlantic League said they reached a three-year partnership to test experimental playing rules and equipment.

Of the seven, five have been in place since 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

The use of of radar tracking technology to assist the home plate umpire in calling balls and strikes (initiative No. 6) made its debut in the All-Star Game. The final initiative, which extends the distance between the pitching rubber and home plate by 24 inches, will take place in the 2020 season.

“We have seen a tremendous amount of interest in these initiatives from our players, coaches and fans throughout the first half of the season,” said Rick White, president of the Atlantic League. “We look forward to working further with Major League Baseball and observing these additional rule changes in action throughout the remainder of the year.”

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