The first change to the Minor League Baseball rulebook is the addition of a rule that is already in place at many other levels of baseball and softball.
The rules are meant to shorten the length of extra-inning games and the number of mound visits throughout a game, keeping in mind player safety and providing more action for viewers.
"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.
Predictably, MILB is following in MLB's footsteps by limiting the number of times teams can gather at the mound.
Minor league games will also have a cap on the number of visits to the mound by coaches and position players.
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When extra innings begin, the batter who made the last out will start at second base. A runner who starts an extra inning at second shall be counted as reaching on an error for purposes of determining earned runs, but no errors shall be charged. I'm okay with the mound visit rule and I am pro pitch clock if Major League Baseball wants to add it. Get that extra-inning rule outta here though. So if the No. 4 hitter is due to lead off, then the No. 3 hitter goes to second base to start the inning. "Any runner or batter removed from the game for a substitute shall be ineligible to return to the game".
These rules changes are meant to help shorten the length of games. Triple-A clubs will be allowed six visits per team, Double-A will be given eight and Single-A squads will be allowed 10. Most games are probably going to end in the 10th. The pitcher will have that amount of time to get into their pitching motion. Pitchers will have 15 seconds to begin their wind-up, and if they don't do so within the allotted time, a ball will be awarded to the batter.
The Class A Florida State League experimented with a 15-second pitch clock in all situations the past two years, and its average time for a nine-inning game dropped from 2:41 in 2015 to 2:35 the following season before rising to 2:38 last year.
Should the pitcher fail to begin his wind-up or begin the motion to come to the set position in 15 seconds with no runners on base, or 20 seconds with a runner on base, a ball will be awarded to the count on the batter.
But that won't be fully regulated until after the first 15 days of the season (April 5-19), which minor league baseball plans to use as a grace period, with players receiving warnings for infractions.