MLB to test proposed rules in Minors

MLB to test proposed rules in Minors

Rule changes adopted by Major League Baseball's Playing Rules Committee on an experimental basis for specified Minor Leagues will affect the amount of time pitchers have to pitch and mean fewer visits to the mound.

The changes, announced by MLB on Thursday, are designed to speed up the game, and the results will be closely monitored by MLB, presumably to ascertain whether they might be feasible for more extensive implementation.

New language inserted into Rule 8.04, which regulates the time that a pitcher has to pitch, has been amended to increase the time within which a pitcher must pitch from 12 to 15 seconds, but the timing will begin when the pitcher receives the ball without regard for whether the batter is ready for the pitch.

If the batter has had a reasonable opportunity to get ready and is not ready, he would be at risk for having the pitcher pitch, or, if the batter is out of the batter's box, for having an automatic strike called, as set forth in Rules 6.02(c) and (d).

Another rule change will limit the number of visits to the mound by managers, coaches and infielders.

Any combination of three or more manager/coach visits to the mound in a game without removing the pitcher will result in the automatic removal of the pitcher from the game on a fourth visit, regardless of whether prior visits were to the same or different pitcher(s). Additionally, no more than one infielder at a time is permitted to visit the mound, including during any visit by a manager or coach.

The limitation on the number of mound visits is similar to the rules used in international and NCAA play, and the restriction on infielder visits to the mound is similar to the international rule.

"The Playing Rules Committee is pleased to take these additional steps to modernize the Official Baseball Rules and to enhance their practicality wherever possible," said Jimmie Lee Solomon, MLB's executive vice president of Baseball Operations and a member of the Playing Rules Committee. "We will be particularly interested in monitoring the new experimental pace of game procedures in the New York-Penn League and the Northwest League. The improvement of pace of game is an important goal common to all levels of professional baseball, and Major League Baseball will remain proactive in this effort."

These experimental rules will be used in two Minor Leagues of the short-season Class A classification, the New York-Penn League and the Northwest League, for the 2008 season.

A third experimental change concerns position of coaches on the field with regards to the baseline boxes.

An added comment to Rule 4.05 requires that a coach, until being passed by a batted ball, must position himself no closer to home plate than the front edge of the coach's box and no closer to fair territory than the edge of the coach's box closest to the field.

This marks the second consecutive season in which the Playing Rules Committee has made changes to the rules. Prior to last year, the Rules had not been changed since the strike zone was redefined in 1996.

The Playing Rules Committee consists of Solomon; John McHale, Jr., MLB's executive vice president for administration; Sandy Alderson, the chief executive officer of the San Diego Padres; Bob Beban, the president and general manager of the Eugene Emeralds of the Northwest League; Hall of Famer Rod Carew, a 19-year Major League veteran; Terry Ryan, senior advisor to the general manager of the Minnesota Twins; John Schuerholz, the president of the Atlanta Braves; Bill Stoneman, senior advisor to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim; and MLB umpire supervisor Larry Young, a 23-year Major League umpire.

Mike Gaski, president of USA Baseball and head baseball coach at UNC-Greensboro, is an advisory member of the Committee.

Jim Molony is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.