Major League Baseball’s competition committee is set to vote Friday on rule changes that would begin in 2023 and include for the first time a pitch clock, the elimination of the shift, larger bases and a limit on how many times a pitcher can get off the rubber. , according to sources familiar with the situation.
The goal is to increase performance on the field, speed up the pace and reduce the amount of time it takes to play a major league game. The rule changes are expected to pass and include the following:
15-second pitch clock with the bases empty and 20-second clock with runners on
Two disengagements from the rubber — including selection attempts — per plate appearance
Require hitters to be in the batter’s box and “attention” with eight seconds to go on the clock. Hitters are allowed one break per plate appearance
Only two infielders will be allowed on each side of second base, with all four required to be on the dirt (or infield grass)
Infielders may not position themselves on the outfield grass before the pitch is thrown
Bases will increase in size from 15 inches square to 18
Major League Baseball is responding to extensive research it has conducted through surveys of fans and players over the past several years, testing the changes at all levels of the minor leagues. With technological advances for pitching and defense over the past decade, the league envisions the changes as a way to even the playing field for hitters while making a more entertaining defensive product.
The clock will start when the pitcher receives the ball from his catcher or the umpire — and the game is ready to resume. In most cases, this occurs after each throw, but may include a moment for a runner to return to a bag or a ball boy or ball girl to clear the field of play, for example. Umpires will have a buzzer on them to indicate that the pitch clock has expired, leading to a ball being called. If hitters are not ready with eight seconds left on the clock, a strike will be issued. Each batter will be allowed one break per plate appearance. Mound visits are limited to 30 seconds unless due to injury.
Pitchers can step off the rubber twice per plate appearance without penalty, but after a third step — which does not result in a pick — a balk will be called. In other words, a pitcher can throw over first base up to three times, but the third attempt must lead to an out or the runner gets to advance a base. The release rule resets when a runner comes to a new base. With no runners on, a third pitch off would result in a mound visit.
Umpires will monitor infielders to ensure they are properly lined up before the ball leaves a pitcher’s hand. Like receivers in football, infielders can ask umpires if they are properly situated, with two infielders required on each side of second and none allowed on the outfield grass. If a pitch is thrown while the defending team is in violation of the new changeover rules, the hitting team may choose the outcome of the ensuing play or a ball for the hitter. This is the one play of the new rules that would be reviewable. Infielders cannot exchange positions within an inning unless one of them is replaced.
The increase in the size of the bases should reduce injuries around them while increasing stolen base attempts. Both results occurred in the minors when the larger bases were tested.
ESPN’s Jeff Passan contributed to this report.