Rule changes are planned for every level of baseball, and at the A level different leagues will feature different rule changes. In Triple-A, the size of first, second and third base will be increased from 15 inches square to 18 inches square. The goal: To reduce player injuries and collisions. In Double-A, the shift will be partially outlawed: the defensive team must have a minimum of four players on the infield, each of whom must have both feet completely in front of the outer boundary of the infield dirt. However, to begin the season, there will be no requirement to keep two players on each side of second base—but that could change. In High-A, pitchers will be required to disengage the rubber prior to throwing to any base; otherwise, it’s a balk. The goal: increase the number of stolen bases.
In Low-A, Pitchers will be limited to a total of two “step offs” or “pickoffs” per plate appearance while there is at least one runner on base. There are also two league-specific rule changes: ABS (robo-umps) will be used in select games in Low-A Southeast (presumably in ballparks where ABS was installed for spring training), while Low-A West players will be subject to on-field timers (one in the outfield, two behind home plate between the dugouts) to enforce time limits between delivery of pitches, inning breaks and pitching changes. But, of course, the rules surrounding timers will be different than those already used in Double-A and Triple-A.
All in all, the rule changes are designed to quicken the pace of play and inject more excitement into the game. You can view all the rule changes here.
The Baseball Thesaurus term of the day: grand slam, which comes from the world of contact bridge. It’s a term that’s evolved over the years—Vin Scully used to refer to grand slammers—but always remember one thing: it’s a redundancy to refer to a grand slam home run. Just a grand slam.
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Jesse Goldberg-Strassler is the Voice of the Lansing Lugnuts and the author of The Baseball Thesaurus and The Football Thesaurus from August Publications. Mick Gillispie is the Voice of the Tennessee Smokies and a spring-training Voice of the Chicago Cubs. Kevin Reichard is publisher at August Publications and Ballpark Digest.