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MLB undergoes rule changes ahead of upcoming season

Rejoice baseball fans, this is the last week without America’s national pastime until October. But when the game returns on Sunday, April 2, spectators may notice a few significant alterations the league has made to rules.

In pursuit of his goal to quicken the pace of play, Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred has led the charge to institute a number of rule changes that would make games run by at a faster rate. The MLB announced a number of modifications earlier this month.

The most notable of the new rule changes is the addition of no-pitch intentional walks, which caused a fair amount of controversy among fans when it was announced a few weeks ago. The new rule will allow managers to signal that they would like to issue an intentional walk, rather than having the catcher standing up and catching four consecutive balls far outside of the strike zone.

This rule change will remove some chance out of the game, as a number of fans noted that pitchers have thrown wild pitches on intentional walks or have accidentally thrown pitches too far inside that are then unexpectedly hit. Coincidentally, Texas A&M won a game on an errant pitch during an intentional walk on the day the rule change was initially announced. However, Manfred and the MLB believe the elimination of the traditional intentional walk is a small price to pay in pursuit of a quicker game.

Baseball’s replay system will also be affected several rule changes. The first will allow managers only 30 seconds after a given play to request a replay, which will force them to make quicker decisions. The second change will allow replays to be requested through the seventh inning, one more than previously allowed. However, all final decisions made from replays will have to be achieved in two minutes or less. This is being done to avoid some of the lengthy delays that plagued baseball last year, but it does have some concerned that wrong calls will be made.

MLB also instituted rules regarding the use of field markings for defensive positioning. The concern arose last year when the New York Mets accused the Los Angeles Dodgers of using lasers to mark the field for alignments. All markings used for defensive positioning, including lasers or paint, have now been banned.

Another rule seems to have targeted the pitching delivery of San Diego Padres reliever Carter Capps. Capps is known for his controversial delivery, in which he seems to jump his pivot foot off the mound as he hurls the ball forward. MLB’s new rule, however, will prohibit pitchers from lifting or shifting their pivot foot during a pitch.  If a pitcher does so with a runner on base then the delivery will be charged as a balk. If the bases are empty it will go down as an illegal pitch and be called a ball.

Finally, third-base coaches will be required to stay in the third-base coach’s box before every pitch, a clarification of a rule that was already on the books, but rarely enforced. Coaches will still be allowed to run down the line to yell at runners during the play, as long as they do not interfere with the on-field action.

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