Major League Baseball has reportedly told the players’ union it is willing to postpone implementing a 20-second pitch clock until after the current labor agreement expires as part of a broad proposal on rule changes that could alter mound visit restrictions, roster size and more.
Commissioner Rob Manfred has taken an aggressive approach to altering the game’s rules to speed up the pace of play and attempt to shoehorn games into three-hour broadcast windows.
The league’s latest proposal to the union, first reported by ESPN’s Jeff Passan, would further those aims. MLB would institute a pitch clock in 2022, after the collective bargaining agreement runs out at the end of the 2021 season. But the league would force pitchers to face at least three batters and further cut the number of mound visits allowed per nine innings. Such moves would stop managers from turning to pitchers who are right- or left-handed specialists to face a single batter late in games.
Teams in 2018 were allowed six mound visits per nine innings, plus one visit for each extra inning. In 2019, the league could limit teams to five visits, and four in 2020.
Rosters would also expand from 25 to 26 players, but teams could only carry 13 pitchers.
Here is a full list of the reported changes:
|Current rule||Proposed change||Proposed effective date|
|No pitch clock||20-second pitch clock||2022|
|Pitchers must face a minimum of one batter||Pitchers must face a minimum of three batters||2020|
|Rosters carry 25 players||Rosters carry 26 players, with 13 pitchers maximum||2020|
|Teams are permitted six mound visits per nine innings, plus one mound visit each extra inning||Teams are permitted five mound visits per nine innings in 2019, four mound visits per nine innings in 2020||2019, 2020|
|The break between innings is capped at 2:05 for local broadcasts, 2:35 for national broadcasts||The break between innings for all broadcasts is 1:55||2019, with a test period during spring training|
|The non-waiver trade deadline is July 31, afterward, teams can trade players who clear waivers||The unified waiver and non-waiver trade deadline is July 31||unclear|
|Any player can enter the game as a pitcher||Before the season, players will be designated as pitchers, position players or two-way players. Position players may only pitch after the ninth inning or after the sixth inning when their team trails by seven runs||unclear|
|Pitchers are placed on the 10-day injured list||Pitchers are placed on the 15-day injured list||unclear|
|Extra inning games proceed without rule modifications like normal games||To begin the 10th inning of the All-Star Game and spring training games, a runner will start on second base||unclear|
|Games may not end in a tie||Spring training games may end in a tie with the score even after 10 innings||unclear|
The players’ union is reportedly amenable to many of these alterations, including the unified trade deadline, roster expansion and shorter breaks between innings, giving officials from both MLB and the union hope that the continued talks on rule changes could head off a labor dispute in the coming years.
The league has already begun experimenting with some of the new rules. Minor League Baseball played with a pitch clock during the 2018 season and major leaguers are playing with one during spring training.
But some pitchers have voiced virulent opposition to the pitch clock, in particular. Washington Nationals ace Max Scherzer told reporters after his first spring training start he was “fundamentally opposed” to the pitch clock.
“I know as players that’s something that MLB is trying to negotiate, I don’t think there’s a negotiation here,” said Scherzer, who is the Nationals’ Players Association representative. “It just shouldn’t be in the game. Having a pitch clock, and if you have ball-strike implications, there’s no clock in baseball. And there’s no clock in baseball for a reason. That’s my thoughts.”
The league also agreed to a contract with the Atlantic League that allows the MLB to use the independent league as a laboratory for rules changes. Major League officials have discussed studying changes to the height of the pitchers’ mound and its distance from home plate as well as the use of an automated strike zone.
Read more on baseball: