MLB and its players union unveil rule modifcations for this season

MLB announced several rule changes. None are major, aside from the intentional walk amendment.

Major League Baseball and the players’ union jointly announced Thursday several rule modifications that will be installed this season – most of them created to accelerate pace of play.

One change is the much-discussed amendment that allows a manager to signal his desire to issue an intentional walk instead of having a pitcher throw four pitches.

While the creation of the no-pitch walk is intended to speed up games, there's nothing to prevent teams from throwing four balls to issue a walk whether it's intentional or not.

That means that if a manager needs additional time to, for example, give a reliever in the bullpen more to warm up, he can do so by issuing an intentional walk the traditional way. 

There will be no uniform signal to call for a no-pitch intentional walk, and it will be the manager's responsibility to let his intention known to the umpire.

The signal would likely be a wave signal or holding up four fingers in most cases. The manager is responsible for the signal and the umpire must confirm the manager's desire to issue an intentional walk. 

Three adjustments were also made to the current instant-replay video review system: 

- Managers will receive just 30 seconds to challenge a call.

- Replay officials based in New York will have a two-minute “guideline” to make decisions on challenges, “allowing various exceptions.”

- An umpiring crew chief can invoke a replay review for non-home run calls beginning in the eighth inning, instead of the seventh inning, when a manager has used up all of his challenges for the team.

Also, teams cannot place any markers on the field that would indicate a place for fielders to position themselves. That instance came up last year when the Mets contacted league officials about a Dodgers request to place markings on the field at Citi Field.

An amendment to Rule 5.07 was made in response to Padres reliever Carter Capps’ hop-step delivery, specifying that a pitcher can’t make a second step to home plate. In these cases, a balk will now be issued when runners are on base, and an illegal pitch will be ruled if no runners are on base.

An adjustment to Rule 5.03 will force base coaches to remain behind the base-coach boundary lines closest to the plate and running parallel to the baselines before every pitch. Once a ball is in play the base coaches are allowed to leave the box, provided they don’t interfere with a play.

eencina@baltsun.com

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