Extra innings during minor league baseball games will now begin with a runner on second base.
Limited by the players' association in changes at the big league level, Major League Baseball worked with the minor league governing body on the new rules.
"We believe these changes to extra innings will enhance the fans' enjoyment of the game and will become something that the fans will look forward to on nights where the game is tied late in the contest", said Minor League Baseball President Pat O'Conner.
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If an umpire determines a pitcher and catcher are crossed up in signs, an extra mound visit is granted beyond the allotment. It's supposed to the player who batted previous to the leadoff batter of the inning (or a substitute for that player).
The new extra-innings format will be adopted across all minor league levels. A mound visit is defined as anytime a manager, coach, or teammate meets the pitcher at the mound with only a few limited exceptions (such as following an injury or to clean spikes in rainy conditions).
Triple-A received the hardest cap regarding mound visits in all of Minor League Baseball.
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As for saving pitchers, only a handful of position players are ever used to pitch and those are mostly in the eighth or ninth innings of blowouts, not in close extra innings games when pitchers are used up.
For those wondering, there is no listed penalty for a team who attempts to make an additional mound visit. However, Double-A teams will be allowed eight visits while Single-A teams will be allowed 10.
It's part of baseball's pace-of-play push, which will also include a 15-second pitch clock when there are no runners on base - for Triple-A and Double-A games only. Baseball will treat it as the runner reached on a fielding error, but no error will be charged to the team or any player. If a pitcher fails to begin his windup or "motion to come to the set position" within 15 seconds then a ball will be added to the count. And while this rule will theoretically cause games to end earlier, this could lead to teams playing outrageously conservative by focusing on getting the runner from second into home so you have at least one run on the board. A ball will be issued if time expires before the pitcher begins his wind-up. The rules will have a grace period for the first 15 days of the season, until April 20, and only warnings will be given for violations during that time, The Washington Post reported. If a batter is not "in the batter's box and alert to the pitcher" with seven seconds left on the clock, a strike is added to the count. Starting on April 20, the new rules will be fully enforced as written.
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