Minor League Baseball has unveiled 2019 rule changes, including a three-batter minimum for pitchers at the Triple-A and Double-A levels and mound visit limits based on classification.
The procedures, created in partnership with Major League Baseball, aim to reduce the amount of downtime taken by mid-inning pitching changes and visits to the pitcher’s mound by position players and coaches, and reduce the risk of injuries to pitchers being used as baserunners in extra innings games.
PITCHERS TO FACE MINIMUM OF THREE BATTERS
– At the Triple-A and Double-A levels, the starting pitcher or any substitute pitcher is required to pitch to a minimum of three consecutive batters, including the batter then at bat (or any substitute batter), until such batters are put out or reach first base, or until the offensive team is put out, unless the starting pitcher or substitute pitcher sustains injury or illness which, in the umpire-in-chief’s judgment, incapacitates him from further play as a pitcher.
EXTRA INNINGS RUNNER ON SECOND BASE REVISION
– At all levels of Minor League Baseball, extra innings will begin with a runner on second base. If the last batter of the previous inning was the pitcher, the player to occupy second base to start the following inning will be the player in the batting order before the pitcher’s spot in the lineup. By way of example, if the pitcher bats in the eighth position and the number nine hitter in the batting order is due to lead off the 10th inning, the number seven player in the batting order (or a pinch-runner for such player) shall begin the inning on second base. Any runner or batter removed from the game for a substitute shall be ineligible to return to the game, as is the case in all circumstances under the Official Baseball Rules.
PITCHER’S MOUND VISITS
– Visits by coaches and position players will be limited based on the classification level. Triple-A teams will be allowed five (5) visits per team (down from six), Double-A teams will be allowed seven (7) visits per team (down from eight), Single-A teams will be allowed nine (9) visits per team (down from 10) and there will not be a limit on mound visits for Short Season and Rookie-level clubs.
– For any extra-innings played, each club shall be entitled to one additional non-pitching change mound visit per inning.
– Official Baseball Rule 5.10(l), which governs mound visits by a manager or coach, remains in effect (i.e., a pitcher must be removed on the second visit by a manager/coach in an inning).
Definition of Mound Visit:
– A manager or coach trip to the mound to meet with the pitcher shall constitute a visit. A player leaving his position to confer with the pitcher, including a pitcher leaving the mound to confer with another player, shall also constitute a mound visit, regardless of where the visit occurs or the length of the visit. Visits by a manager, coach or player to join a mound visit in progress shall not constitute an independent visit. In addition, the following shall not constitute mound visits:
a. Discussions between pitchers and position player(s) that occur between batters in the normal course of play and do not require either the position player(s) or the pitcher to relocate;
b. Visits by position players to the mound solely to clean spikes, provided to player does not confer with the pitcher;
c. Visits to the mound due to an injury or potential injury of the pitcher;
d. Visits by position players to the mound after the announcement of an offensive substitution, but prior to a subsequent pitch or play;
e. Visits to the mound by position players that occur during a suspension of play pursuant to an umpire’s call of “time” (e.g., following an injury to an umpire or player; the presence of a spectator, object, or a member of the grounds crew on the field; a manager’s initiation of Replay Review, etc.), provided that the mound visit does not otherwise delay a return to game action;
f. Visits to the mound by position players after a home run, provided that the player returns to his position before the runner crosses home plate; and
g. Visits to the mound by position players during an inning break or pitching change, provided that the mound visit does not prevent the pitcher from complying with any applicable inning break or pitching change time limits.
Enforcement of Mound Visit Limits:
– A manager or coach who crosses the foul line on his way to the mound after his team has exhausted its mound visits must make a pitching change, unless during the at-bat of a starting or substitute pitcher’s first three batters, in which case the substitute shall continue to pitch to a minimum of three consecutive batters in accordance with Rule 5.10(g). If a manager or coach believes an exception to the mound visit rule applies, he must confer with the umpire prior to crossing the foul line. In circumstances in which a team is forced to make an unintended pitching change by operation of this Rule, and there is no relief pitcher warming up in the bullpen, the manager or coach who violated the Rule by exceeding his team’s allotted number of mound visits shall be subject to ejection from the game. The umpire may allow the substitute pitcher additional time to prepare to enter the game. If a position player makes a visit after his team has exhausted its allotted number of mound visits he may be subject to ejection for failing to return to his position when instructed by the umpire; however, an impermissible visit by a position player shall not require the removal of the pitcher.
“Placing a runner on second base in extra innings accomplished the intended goals and created instant excitement in extra innings, but in a few instances exposed pitchers to serving as baserunners, which was a concern of our partners at Major League Baseball, so this amendment to that rule is an easy and practical solution,” said Minor League Baseball President & CEO Pat O’Conner. “Pitchers facing a minimum of three batters at the advanced levels will limit the number of pitching changes and help keep the game moving at a steady pace, while also providing valuable data for Major League Baseball as they review the impact it has on the pace of play.”
RELATED STORIES: 2019 MLB Rule Changes Unveiled