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Changes Go Into Effect for Minor League Baseball

Tyler Thompson

Minor League Baseball was thrown a curve ball last month with the introduction of some new rules that aim to shorten game times to keep players safe and enhance the fan experience.

The changes to the “pace-of-play” will cut down on the number of extra innings, visits to the pitcher’s mound and time in between pitches with no runners on base.

One of the biggest changes will come into play when games transition into extra innings. A player for the team at bat will be placed on second base during extra innings.

“That’s sort of in an attempt to look out for player safety in the sense of a lot of extra innings games in minor league baseball end up exhausting your bullpen,” said Andrew Buchbinder, a spokesman for the Springfield Cardinals.

Team managers and coaches will also have limited visits to the pitcher’s mound. 

Buchbinder said this might push the manager and coaches to be a bit more strategic in their planning for mound visits but will likely have little overall impact on the game.

A timing change is also going to affect the bullpen. 

Pitchers, catchers and batters will all have to be a bit faster setting up the next pitch when no runners are on base. In 2015, a rule gave those players 20 seconds to set up the next pitch. This year, that rule has been adjusted down to 15 seconds.

“It’s generally to keep the game moving and then they keep our players clicking along at a good pace,”  said Buchbinder.

He said changes like the new rules for extra innings were also made with player safety in mind.

“If you get to the 13th inning or so you’re going to notice position players coming in to pitch,” he said. “That just kind of sets the stage for potential injury. It doesn’t necessarily lend itself to the most fun baseball to watch because, really, it is a lot of walks since those guys aren’t used to pitching.”

Buchbinder said the rules could create a “neat dynamic” that allows fans and families to stay for the end of the game, especially for the exciting extra innings.

“Here in Springfield and throughout southwest Missouri, this is baseball country. It’s got, obviously, long standing ties to Cardinals Nation. We’re right in the heart of Cardinals Nation and a ton of Royals fans. So, our fans here, and we’re very fortunate to have this dynamic where our fans are educated baseball fans, they really love the game.”

Opening day for the Springfield Cardinals is scheduled for April 12.

The first 15 days of the season will be considered a grace period for players to adjust to the new rules before they will begin receiving any warning or infractions. Buchbinder said he doesn’t anticipate players having too much trouble adjusting to the new rules by the end of the 15 days.