Major League Baseball would not implement a pitch clock until at least 2022, but could enact other changes sooner, as part of a new proposal to the players union.
As a proposed pace-of-play initiative at the major-league level, the 20-second pitch clock has been heavily debated in recent years. MLB has put it into effect for spring training this year, and MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has the power to implement it for the regular season, but has held off on doing so thus far and instead pursued negotiations with players union officials.
Under a plan proposed to the union this week, MLB would agree to not implement a pitch clock in the regular season until at least 2022. Other changes would take place in the interim, however, as the league would impose a rule stating that pitchers must face a minimum of three batters starting in 2020. Also in that season, the league would increase roster sizes to 26 players with a maximum of 13 pitchers, with roster expansion in September dropping from a maximum of 40 players to 28 (maximum 14 pitchers). Mound visit limits would also be reduced from six to five beginning this season, before dropping to four beginning in 2020. Furthermore, MLB would experiment with shortened inning breaks starting in the current spring training.
In addition, the proposal also included unclear timelines for introducing limitations on when position players could pitch and the implementation of a single July 31 trade deadline. More from ESPN:
MLB took the union’s suggestion of a single trade deadline before the All-Star break and countered by keeping the current July 31 deadline in place but eliminating trades in August for players who clear waivers, sources said. The league did, in the proposal, agree to abide by the union’s suggestion for reduced mound visits — from six to five in 2019 and five to four in 2020.
The use of position players as pitchers would have rules attached to it, sources said. Each player at the beginning of a season would be designated a pitcher or position player, except in cases where a player is deemed a two-way player (with 20 major league innings pitched and 20 starts at a position, including designated hitter, with at least three plate appearances). Position players could pitch only after the ninth inning or following the sixth inning in games in which their team trails by at least seven runs.
The league proposed having the right in 2019 to shorten inning breaks from 2 minutes, 5 seconds to 1 minute, 55 seconds in locally broadcast games, in addition to shaving 30 seconds off the current 2-minute, 25-second breaks in national games, according to sources. If agreed upon, the league would begin testing the change this spring before implementing it.
With this proposal, MLB has included some pace-of-play elements by further limiting mound visits and imposing a three-batter minimum for pitchers aimed at reducing mid-inning pitching changes. It would effectively limit the use of specialty relievers, such as left-handed pitchers that are brought in to face to one left-handed batter before being removed from the game in favor of another reliever. These proposals, however, are not final, so there figures to be plenty of discussion between the league and the union before any drastic measures concerning on-field play and roster sizes are introduced.
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