MLB could experiment with rules in extra innings

Discussions continue on pitch clock, other pace-of-play changes; announcement not imminent

January 31st, 2018

With Major League Baseball owners gathering this week in Beverly Hills, Calif., many around the sport wondered if the quarterly meetings would be the venue for an announcement on rule changes aimed at addressing pace-of-play concerns.

While an announcement is not expected on things such as a pitch clock -- at least not this week -- there is an experimental change on the horizon that would impact the length of games during Spring Training and the All-Star Game.

As first reported by The Associated Press and confirmed by a source, the league would like to start a runner on second base in the 11th inning (and all subsequent innings) of the All-Star Game and in the 10th inning of Spring Training games (Spring Training games would not extend beyond 10 innings, even if the score is tied).

According to the AP, the union has not objected to the concept, which is part of the league's latest pace-of-game proposal, because enacting it would reduce injury risk in games that don't impact the standings. MLB has not indicated an interest in implementing the extra-inning rule in regular-season or postseason games, although a similar system was utilized in the 2017 World Baseball Classic, largely due to pitch-count concerns.

As for a pitch clock and potential limits on mound visits, a source confirmed a report by Jerry Crasnick of ESPN that MLB and MLB Players Association officials have continued talks on those topics after the union rejected proposed rule changes earlier this month. MLB has the right to impose new on-field rules unilaterally, through a one-year process that began in 2017, but the Commissioner told reporters in November that his "preferred path is a negotiated agreement with the players."

At the time, Manfred affirmed that rule changes were coming to the sport in 2018 "one way or the other."

While details of MLB's latest proposal remain unknown, league officials have previously indicated they would be amendable to adopting aspects of the current Minor League pitch clock. Under those rules, the 20-second clock begins when a pitcher takes possession of the ball in the dirt area around the rubber and ends when the pitcher begins his windup or arrives at the set position; the clock resets whenever a pitcher disengages from the rubber with runners on base or fakes a pickoff throw.

MLB's proposal last offseason also included a limit of one mound visit by a catcher per pitcher, per inning, according to USA Today.

One source said the MLBPA has withheld support for a pitch clock in negotiations, due in part to reservations over ball and strike penalties for violations by pitchers and hitters, respectively. Players also would like to address concerns about using technology to steal signs -- as the Red Sox were found to be doing last year -- as a way to reduce the need for multiple mound conferences to change sign sequences.

In 2017, the average MLB game lasted three hours, five minutes, which set a new Major League record for duration. With its proposals, MLB's objective has been to limit the amount of dead time during games.