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Major-league owners yesterday decided to take steps to speed up the playing of baseball games by adopting most of the recommendations from former umpire Steve Palermo.

The changes that will go into effect on July 12:

* Umpires will be empowered to keep hitters from stepping out of the batter's box between pitches.

* The break between half-innings will go from 2 minutes, 15 seconds to 1:45.

* Public address announcers will introduce the first hitter of each half-inning 1:15 after the final out of the previous inning.

The owners also agreed with other recommendations that are likely to be adopted in time for the 1996 season:

* Raising the pitching mound from 10 inches to between 12 and 13.

* Allowing pitchers to go to their mouths on the mound to wet their fingers and improve their grips.

* Directing umpires to call more high strikes.

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