According to a report in the New York Post, MLB and the MLBPA have reached an agreement to implement a handful of rule adjustments for the 2022 season and, in some cases, beyond. The agreement is pending approval by the owners of the 30 MLB clubs.
Perhaps the most notable change, and one that is set to last for the life of the five-year CBA, is a nod to Shohei Ohtani, and coincides with the implementation of the designated hitter in both leagues.
The proposed new rule says that if the starting pitcher is also in the lineup as the DH, then that player can remain as the DH even if he is removed as a pitcher. In the past, if the starting pitcher in the AL was also in the lineup, the DH was forfeited, and his spot in the order was occupied by the relief pitcher when he left the game.
Under the proposed rule, Ohtani -- or any other pitcher -- can serve as both the starting pitcher and DH in a given game, and if he is removed as a pitcher after a few innings he gets to stay in the lineup as the DH. This rule tweak was used in the 2021 All-Star Game to allow Ohtani to stay in the game as a DH even though he was also the starting pitcher, and could encourage more two-way players down the line.
For the 2022 season only, the agreement includes expanded rosters for the first month of the season and the return of automatic runners at second base during extra innings.
The expanded rosters for April are a response to the shortened Spring Training as a result of the collective bargaining negotiations. Per the agreement, teams will be allotted two extra roster spots (28 in total) to start the year. This will allow players, especially pitchers, to use the first few weeks of the season to get up to speed, and there will be no roster limits on pitchers during this period. Rosters will return to 26 players on May 2, and teams will not be allowed to have more than 13 pitchers on their rosters once they revert.
The automatic runner on second base in extra innings will return for the entirety of the 2022 season, but not beyond. A runner will be placed at second base during the start of each half inning, which is meant to speed up the pace of play by creating instant run-scoring opportunities during those extra frames. This rule was introduced during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season and rolled over into the 2021 season.
Additionally, seven-inning doubleheaders will now be a thing of the past, as MLB will revert to traditional nine-inning twin bills. The shortened games were introduced as part of the health and safety protocols in 2020.
Owners will vote on the proposed rule changes next week. A simple majority of the league’s 30 owners is required to pass the amendments.