Major League Baseball, the MLBPA officially announce new pace-of-play rules

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We heard last night that it was going to come down today, and today it comes down: Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association have jointly announced additions to the sport’s pace of game program, which will be effective in Spring Training, the regular season and the Postseason. They have likewise announced a series of modifications to the instant replay system.

PACE OF PLACE RULE CHANGES

The pace of game program will require that all batters must keep at least one foot in the batter’s box unless one of a group of exceptions occurs. This amendment/reemphasis of existing Rule 6.02(d) allows batters to leave the box if the following events occur:

  • The batter swings at a pitch;
  • The batter is forced out of the batter’s box by a pitch;
  • A member of either team requests and is granted “Time”;
  • A defensive player attempts a play on a runner at any base;
  • The batter feints a bunt;
  • A wild pitch or passed ball occurs;
  • The pitcher leaves the dirt area of the pitching mound after receiving the ball; or
  • The catcher leaves the catcher’s box to give defensive signals.

Which, yes, are a lot of situations. Essentially, called balls and called strikes are the only occurences after which the batter must stay in the box.

In addition to the batters box rule, there will now be a stricter timing of between-innings breaks and pitching change breaks during the game. Specifically, timers will be added that will measure the time during these breaks. One timer will be installed on or near the outfield scoreboard, and a smaller timer will be installed on the façade behind home plate near the press box.  Immediately following the third out of each half-inning, the timer will count down from 2:25 for locally televised games and from 2:45 for nationally televised games.  An MLB representative attending each game will operate the timers from the ballpark and will track the following events:

 

Time Remaining Activity
40 Seconds PA announces batter and begins to play walk-up music
30 Seconds Pitcher throws final warm-up pitch
25 Seconds Batter’s walk-up music ends
20 Seconds-5 Seconds Batter enters the batter’s box
20 Seconds-0 Seconds Pitcher begins motion to deliver pitch

Pitchers can still throw the usual number of warmup pitches if they get it done before the 30-second warning comes, but they will be deemed to have forfeited any pitches that they are unable to complete prior to the 30-second deadline.

The new rules — both for batters and pitchers — will be enforced through a warning and fine system, with discipline resulting for flagrant violators.  No fines will be issued in Spring Training or in April of the 2015 regular season. This enforcement mechanism was decided on after players objected to ball-and-strike penalties or other sanctions that could affect the outcome of the game.

INSTANT REPLAY RULE CHANGES

In addition to the pace of play rules, there are some changes to the replay system as well. Managers may now invoke instant replay from the dugout and will no longer be required to approach the calling umpire to challenge a call.  Managers may hold play from the top step of the dugout by signaling to players and the home plate umpire that he is considering a challenge.  A decision can be communicated verbally or with a hand signal.  To challenge an inning-ending call, managers will be required to leave the dugout immediately in order to hold the defensive team on the field.

Other alterations:

  • Whether a runner left the base early or properly touched a base on a tag-up play will be reviewable.
  • A manager will retain his challenge after every call that is overturned.  Last year, a manager retained his challenge only after the first overturned call.
  • A manager must use a challenge in order to review whether a play at home plate included a violation of the rule governing home plate collisions.  However, in the event that a manager is out of challenges after the start of the seventh inning, the Crew Chief may still choose to review whether there was a violation of the rule.
  • During Postseason games, regular season tiebreaker games and the All-Star Game, managers will now have two challenges per game.
  • Instant replay will not be utilized during 2015 Spring Training, but it will be in place for exhibition games at Major League ballparks prior to the start of the 2015 regular season.

That’s a lot to unpack. But we have over a month and a half of spring training to unpack it all. What say you, readers?

 

Anthony Rizzo to wear walking boot for five to seven days

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Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo suffered what appeared to be an awful injury during Sunday’s game against the Pirates, twisting his ankle while attempting to field a bunt. An MRI revealed that he has a lateral sprain of his right ankle, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times reports. Rizzo will wear a walking boot for five to seven days before being reevaluated.

Given that there are only two weeks left in the regular season, it seems doubtful Rizzo would be able to return to aid the Cubs’ NL Wild Card chase. The club entered Monday leading the second Wild Card by a game over the Brewers.

Rizzo, 30, is batting .289/.404/.516 with 26 home runs, 93 RBI, and 88 runs scored in 592 plate appearances on the year. Victor Caratini started at first base for Monday’s game against the Reds. The Cubs may also use Ian Happ, Willson Contreras, and Jonathan Lucroy at first base while Rizzo is out.