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More 2021 rules experiments on tap; it’s the Appy League’s turn

Appalachian LeagueWe have already seen Major League Baseball implement several rules experiments in Minor League Baseball and MLB Partner Leagues this year. Now up: two new rules experiments in the new summer-collegiate Appalachian League.

The rule experiments, as developed by MLB and USA Baseball, cover two situations: pitchers and position players reentering games and an expanded use of runners starting extra-innings play:

RE-ENTRY: The re-entry rule is for the second half of the season (July 8 and later). Pitching: A pitcher who starts an inning and exceeds 25 pitches before recording three outs may be substituted for a relief pitcher to complete the inning. The pitcher who began the previous inning and was substituted out of the game will be allowed to re-enter to begin the subsequent inning. The pitcher who came on in relief will also be eligible to re-enter the game in the following inning. Any pitcher who re-enters a game may only do so in consecutive innings. Position Players: Position players may be allowed to re-enter a game as necessary due to injuries or if injury prevention is essential.

EXTRA-INNINGS: If the game is tied at the end of regulation the extra-inning rule will begin in the subsequent inning, placing runners on first and second with no outs. If the game remains tied after the first completed extra inning, the following inning will begin with the bases loaded and no outs. The game will end in a tie if a winner has not been determined after two full extra innings have been completed.

Now, there is a logic behind these rules: they’re designed to protect pitchers, and every college-baseball coach wants to give core pitchers work while not pushing them too hard. We know many high-profile prospects operate on pitch counts in summer-collegiate ball, and a quote from Appalachian League pitching coordinator Ray Burris (distributed in press materials) illustrates this:

“For me, the re-entry rule gives credence to keeping a player healthy by not taxing his body and mind. Those who have played or been around the game of baseball their entire lives know that there will be times where a pitcher will experience long innings; however, it should not come at the expense of harming a pitcher. It is an important step for the Appalachian League to introduce the re-entry rule and reinforce itself as a development league first and foremost.”

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