Minor League Baseball today announced rule and procedure changes aimed at reducing the length of extra-inning games and the number of mound visits during a game throughout Minor League Baseball.
The first change to the Minor League Baseball rulebook is the addition of a rule that is already in place at many other levels of baseball and softball.
"Player safety has been an area of growing concern for our partners at the Major League Baseball level, and the impact that lengthy extra innings games has on pitchers, position players and an entire organization was something that needed to be addressed".
Predictably, MILB is following in MLB's footsteps by limiting the number of times teams can gather at the mound. Finally, in Triple-A, teams will be limited to six mound visits per game. Each extra inning will begin with a runner on second base - with the obvious hope of giving teams a better chance of scoring.
The 15-second pitch clock is reduced five seconds from the previous pitch clock rule that MiLB integrated in 2015. The runner will be the player who made the final out and pitchers will not be charged an earned run if that runner scores. Any visit in which a coach or player meets with the pitcher during the course of the inning to have words is a mound visit, except in these situations: Discussions between pitchers and position players that occur between batters in the normal course of play and do not require either the position players or the pitcher to relocate, visits by position players to the mound to clean spikes in rainy conditions, visits to the mound due to an injury or potential injury of the pitcher, visits to the mound after the announcement of an offensive substitution. Each team gets one additional mound visit for each extra inning. For example, if the No. 5 hitter steps to the plate to lead off the inning, the No. 4 hitter will take second base. "Any runner or batter removed from the game for a substitute shall be ineligible to return to the game".
These mound visit limits will apply whether the game is scheduled for seven or nine innings. Testing out rule changes in the Minors first will give you info about whether or not the rule changes actually shorten gametime and whether or not it drastically affects the concept of the sport. There are no mound visit limits in the short season leagues.
A pitcher must start his windup or be in the set position before the timer expires, and batters must be in the batter's box and alert to the pitcher with at least 7 seconds remaining. The higher the league the fewer the visits allowed, from six in AAA to ten for A. Pitch timers will also be instituted with a 15 second timer when the bases are empty to 20 seconds when someone is on base. The pitcher will have that amount of time to get into their pitching motion.
Following an umpire's call of "time" or if the ball becomes dead and the batter remains at-bat, the timer shall start after the next pitch or play. Beginning April 20, rules will be enforced.