Automatic runner permanent; new position-player pitching rules
The Joint Competition Committee voted on Monday to make two additions to the 2023 rulebook regarding the automatic runner in extra innings and position players pitching.
As has been the case for the past three seasons, teams will begin each inning after the ninth with an automatic runner on second base. The rule, which was instituted in 2020 in an effort to preserve player health and safety during the pandemic-shortened season, applies only to regular-season games.
The other change announced on Monday altered when a team can use a position player on the mound.
Last season, position players -- outside of those labeled two-way players -- could appear as a pitcher only in extra innings or if his team was trailing or winning by at least six runs. Starting in 2023, however, position players can enter the game as a pitcher only if at least one of the following criteria is met:
• Game is in extra innings
• Team trailing by at least eight runs at any point
• Team winning by at least 10 runs in ninth inning
The change comes after a sharp increase in the number of position players taking the mound in recent seasons -- especially with their team in the lead.
There was a record 132 pitching appearances by position players during the 2022 season. That was up from 89 in '21, and easily surpassed the previous high of 90 in '19. To put that in perspective even further, there were only three pitching appearances by position players in '08.
Last season also gave way to a new strategy of teams turning to position players to protect sizable late-game leads.
In 2022, there were 18 pitching appearances by position players whose team was leading by at least six runs at the time. There was only one such appearance in 2019 and '21 combined (excluding the partial '20 season). There was also a 250 percent increase from '19 and '21 in pitching appearances when trailing by six or seven runs, and a 16 percent increase when trailing by at least eight runs.
The Competition Committee is comprised of six MLB representatives, four players and one umpire.
The changing guidelines around position players pitching are among a slew of rule changes coming to MLB in 2023, including a pitch timer, shift restrictions and bigger bases. You can read more about those at mlb.com/rules.