Classic announces rules for event

Classic announces rules for inaugural event

Major League clubs concerned about their pitchers throwing "ahead of the calendar" in the World Baseball Classic were reassured Thursday by strict pitch counts spelled out within a wide array of regulations for the March event announced by tournament officials.

As set forth by World Baseball Classic, Inc. (WBCI), pitchers will be limited to 65 pitches in Round One games, and be ineligible to pitch for four days following any outing of 50-plus pitches.

Also detailed are "mercy rules" for ending lopsided games, limitations on the number of participants from any Major League organization, replacement of injured players between rounds, and tie-breaking procedures to determine teams advancing in the three-tiered tournament.

However, most of the attention was drawn to the restrictions designed to protect arms, the game's most valued commodity. No limitations were placed on the use of position players.

To warrant enforcement of the rules, there will be an addition to the game's lexicon: the Game Operations Technical Committee, which will be responsible for reporting pitchers at the limit to the umpire-in-chief, who will have the power to order pitching changes.

While pitch-count rules are mainly for the protection of Major Leaguers, whose teammates will simultaneously be going through routine Spring Training, the same rules will be in effect for all 16 nations competing in the inaugural global baseball tourney.

The rules announced by WBCI address the unique aspects of the international competition, since the games themselves will conform to official Major League rules, including the use of the DH.

Pitchers will have to lay off one day after throwing 30-plus pitches, obviously meant as a safeguard for long relievers. And, to prevent closers from being over-used, pitchers won't be allowed to work more than two consecutive days.

Starters will have more liberal pitch counts deeper into the Classic, which begins with Round 1 games on March 3 and concludes with the March 20 Final in San Diego's Petco Park.

The Round 2 limit will be 80 pitches, then 95 in the semifinals and final.

In all situations, a pitcher may exceed his limit only to complete an ongoing at-bat.

The strict pitch counts, particularly as they apply to relievers, will give tournament managers and pitching coaches plenty extra to think about. They will have to run one game with minds on the next, since their staffs will be frozen for the entire tournament.

The only roster substitutions allowed, and only between rounds, will be for injuries. Disabled players can then be replaced by another who had appeared on the team's 60-man provisional roster.

Those rosters were submitted by all 16 countries last Tuesday. Five days prior to its first scheduled Round 1 game, each team will have to file its competition roster of 30 players, five or six coaches, and the manager.

Commitments by Major League clubs will be limited to a total of 14 players from within its organization, and 10 off its big-league roster as of Aug. 31, 2005 (the day before the 25-man limit was lifted).

There is some wiggle room in the aforementioned, in both directions. A team can have more participating players if it gives explicit approval. Or, fewer, if WBCI finds it under duress because its quota includes too many same-position players (pitchers or catchers, for instance).

As previously reported, games will be declared over with a run differential of 15 after five innings, or 10 after seven. The so-called "mercy rule" will be in effect only for the first two rounds.

Tie-breakers figure to get heavy play. Rounds 1 and 2 will both consist of four teams playing three-game schedules. In each instance, the two with the best winning percentage advance but, given the schedule, ties are inevitable.

The pecking order for breaking ties in the standings, based on rules used by the International Baseball Federation:

• Head-to-head results.
• Fewest runs allowed per inning (including partial innings) in head-to-head play.
• Fewest earned runs per inning in head-to-head play.
• Highest batting average in head-to-head play.
• By drawing, conducted by WBCI.

Also detailed were how home teams will be determined for each Classic game, and guidelines for determining eligibility to represent any of the competing countries.

Those liberal rules, as previously noted, boil down to one litmus test: Qualifying for a passport issued by the particular country. Citizens and residents of the country obviously qualify, but so do U.S. citizens with at least one parent born in, or a citizen of, the nation in question.

Tom Singer is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.