Minor League Baseball today announced rule and procedure changes aimed at reducing the length of extra-inning games and the number of mound visits during a game throughout Minor League Baseball.
Among other changes coming to minor league ballparks are limited visits to the pitcher's mound and a 15-second pitch clock when no runners are on base.
Major League Baseball had hoped to have a similar rule for spring training and starting in the 11th inning of the All-Star Game but was stymied by the Major League Baseball Players Association, which refused to agree.
At all levels of the minors, extra innings will now start with a runner on second base.
Predictably, MILB is following in MLB's footsteps by limiting the number of times teams can gather at the mound.
Worldwide rules have placed a runner on base in extra innings for years.
Mound visits are limited based on the classification, but Triple-A affiliates like the Gwinnett Stripers will be limited to six visits per game, the same amount the Major League Baseball is limited to starting this season.
Per the rule, "The runner at second base will be the player in the batting order position previous to the leadoff batter of the inning (or a substitute for that player)".
In addition, the pitch clock that began at Triple-A and Double-A in 2015 will be lowered from 20 seconds to 15 when there are no runners on base, the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues said Wednesday. So pitchers will not be charged with an earned run if that runner scores.
An additional visit will be added for each extra inning.
Allowable mound visits will be staggered among minor league levels. "Any runner or batter removed from the game for a substitute shall be ineligible to return to the game".
The Sky Sox saw nine of their final 12 games go at least 3 hours this past season.
The biggest change, which actually alters the rules of the game, is the extra-inning rule. The maximum will be six by managers, coaches or players at Triple-A, eight at Double-A and 10 at full-season Class A. There will not be any limits at short-season Class A or rookie leagues.
If the pitcher does not begin his wind-up or begin the motion to come to the set position in the allotted time, a ball will be added to the count on the batter.
Conversely, should the batter fail to be in the batter's box within seven or more seconds remaining on the pitch timer, a strike will be awarded to the count on the batter.
The new rules will go into effect beginning April 20.
Players will receive only warnings for violations in the first two weeks of the season, the announcement said.