Pace of game initiatives to be tested at AFL

Pace of game initiatives to be tested at AFL

Major League Baseball will test initiatives that were developed by MLB's new Pace of Game Committee during the Arizona Fall League, it was announced Wednesday.

Included are restrictions on hitters stepping out of the batter's box between pitches, limits on the time allowed between innings and for pitching changes, a change in how intentional walks are issued, reducing the number of conferences, and the modification of existing rules on the allowable time between pitches.

"The Pace of Game Committee is eager to test various ideas -- ranging from the incremental to the dramatic -- in order to learn more, and we are fortunate to have a setting in which we can do exactly that," said Commissioner Bud Selig in a news release. "We will work with the appropriate parties -- including players, umpires, our partners, our fans and many other contributors to our game -- to form effective pace-of-game recommendations that will fit the Major League level."

Braves president John Schuerholz is chairman of the committee, which was announced on Sept. 22.

"Our committee members have many practical ideas about how we can improve our pace of game," Schuerholz said. "The Arizona Fall League will be a terrific platform during which we can experiment with these ideas and take away some lessons in the hope of streamlining the pace of play."

Among the innovations that will be evaluated:

A hitter must keep one foot inside the batter's box throughout his plate appearance. Exceptions include a foul ball or a foul tip, a pitch forcing the batter out of the batter's box, a request for time out being granted, a wild pitch or a passed ball and several others.

Intentional walks will no longer include the pitcher lobbing four balls outside the strike zone. Instead, the manager will signal to the home-plate umpire and the batter will take first base.

There will be a maximum break of two minutes and five seconds between innings, with hitters required to be in the batter's box by the one minute and 45 seconds mark. If a hitter doesn't comply, the umpire will call a strike. If the hitter is ready but the pitcher doesn't deliver a pitch by two minutes and five seconds, the umpire will call a ball.

There will be a maximum of two minutes and 30 seconds allowed for pitching changes, including those that occur during an inning break. The clock starts when the reliever enters the playing field. The penalty will be that the umpire calls a ball.

Each team will be permitted three "timeout" conferences covering any meeting involving pitchers and catchers, managers, coaches and batters. Timeouts during pitching changes and those that result from an injury or other emergency will not be counted toward the limit.

All of the above will be enforced in all AFL games. At Salt River home games only, a modified version of Rule 8:04, which requires a pitch to be thrown within 12 seconds after he receives the ball with the bases empty, will apply.

In games at Salt River, a clock will be displayed in both dugouts, behind home plate and in the outfield. The clock will be operated by an independent operator, who is not a member of the umpire crew. A pitcher shall be allowed 20 seconds to throw each pitch. The batter must be in the box and prepared for the pitch during the entire 20-second period. If the batter steps out of the box during the 20-second period, the pitcher may deliver the pitch and the umpire may call a strike, unless the batter was first granted time by the umpire.

In addition, Major League Baseball will continue to study potential modifications to its system of instant replay. The 17 home games scheduled at Salt River Fields will feature the review system currently utilized in all MLB games, with connectivity to MLB's Replay Operations Center at MLB Advanced Media in New York.

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