Major League Baseball is considering a rule change that could eliminate the ability of a pitcher to keep his foot on the rubber and fake a throw to third base when there are runners on both first and third.
The new rule would force the pitcher to remove his foot from the rubber before making any sort of move, perhaps eliminating a long-used play. If he didn't remove his foot, the action would be considered a balk, allowing the runners to move up a base.
Right now, any change is in discussion between MLB and the Players Association, an MLB spokesman said. The union blocked its implementation this season so players could further study the issue, which is a brainchild of Commissioner Bud Selig's select committee overseeing on-field changes in the sport.
"Some people think you're just trying to deceive the runner at first, that you have no real intention of getting the guy at third," said Angels manager Mike Scioscia, a member of the committee. "You're not trying so much to get a guy off third. You're not going to do that very often. But it can be a huge deterrent for the runner at first."
Some members of the committee believe it's a difficult play for umpires to call and is a waste of time, placing its elimination into the category of trying to speed up the game. The committee includes current managers Scioscia, and Jim Leyland of the Tigers, plus retired managers Joe Torre and Tony La Russa. Torre is MLB's executive vice president of baseball operations and La Russa recently joined the Commissioner's office.
The play is addressed in the Official Baseball Rules under Rule 8.05 (c), which states: "It is possible, with runners on first and third, for the pitcher to step toward third and not throw, merely to bluff the runner back to third; then seeing the runner on first start for second, turn and step toward and throw to first base. This is legal."
On pickoffs when a runner is on first base, the pitcher must step off the rubber before faking a throw. If he fakes while on the rubber, it is considered a balk.
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.