Minor leagues to enforce pitch clock, change extra-inning rules

Minor leagues to enforce pitch clock, change extra-inning rules

Minor League Baseball's pace-of-play rules will change in several major ways this year in an attempt to cut down on lengthy games.

The extra-inning rule goes into effect for all levels of minor league baseball.

The procedures, created in partnership with Major League Baseball, aim to reduce the number of pitchers used in extra innings and the issues created by extra innings games, including, but not limited to, shortages of pitchers in the days to follow, the use of position players as pitchers and the transferring of players between affiliates due to pitching shortages caused by extra innings games.

The biggest change is placing a runner on second base to open each extra inning, which bucks a long-standing baseball tradition.

Predictably, MILB is following in MLB's footsteps by limiting the number of times teams can gather at the mound. Every time! I say go full insane and start each extra-inning with the bases loaded and no outs.

There will also be limited mound visits, and Triple-A games will have a 15-second pitch clock, according to rule changes implemented for this season. The runner will be the player in the lineup before the leadoff hitter in that inning, though teams will be allowed to substitute in that spot.

Pitchers at the Triple A and Double A levels will have a 15 second pitch clock with no base runners and a 20 second pitch clock with base runners. 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.

Additionally, the limits on mound visits are an adaptation of MLB's new policy of six per game that was implemented last month for this season.

Allowable mound visits will be staggered among minor league levels.

These rules changes are meant to help shorten the length of games. For example, if the No. 5 hitter steps to the plate to lead off the inning, the No. 4 hitter will take second base.

These mound visit limits will apply whether the game is scheduled for seven or nine innings. At Single-A, it bumps to 10 per game, and there will be no limit for teams in short season or rookie leagues. The clock will restart after any events - pick-off play, "time" awarded by the umpire, etc. - that allows the batter to leave the box.

The timer will stop as soon as the pitcher begins his wind-up, or begins the motion to come to the set position.

Pitch clocks were first put in use in minor league games three years ago, with pitchers having 20 seconds to come to a set position.

Failure to comply will result in a ball awarded to the count on the batter.

The first two weeks of the season will serve as a grace period, with players receiving warnings for violations.