Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association announced rule changes on Friday regarding the pace of play during games.
Among the changes included are making managers stay in the dugout during replay challenges, mandating that hitters keep at least one foot in the batter's box during at-bats and returning quickly to play after television commercial breaks. To challenge inning-ending calls, managers are required to leave the dugout immediately in order to hold the defensive team on the field.
Managers will now have two challenges per game during postseason games, regular season tiebreaker games and the All-Star Game.
The league will also implement timers to "measure non-game action and break time between innings and pitching changes." Two timers will be added to each ballpark -- one near an outfield scoreboard, and one on the facade behind home place, near the press box. A timer will count down from 2:25 for locally television games and 2:45 for national television games. An MLB representative will operate the clock and keep track of events.
The batter has until there are five seconds remaining on the clock to enter the batter's box. A pitcher is expected to begin throwing to the plate as soon as the batter enters the box and becomes alert to the pitcher. Any batter that doesn't enter the box with five seconds left and any pitcher that doesn't throw a pitch with no time remaining will be in violation of the rule.
Another rules change will involve timed pitching changes, with players being warned and fined for violations, but no fines will be issued during spring training or during the first month of the regular season.
MLB set up a pace-of-play committee last September to examine why games take so long to complete. Last year’s games took an average of three hours and two minutes to complete, up from two hours and 46 minutes in 2003.
"These changes represent a step forward in our efforts to streamline the pace of play. The most fundamental starting point for improving the pace of the average game involves getting into and out of breaks seamlessly. In addition, the batter's box rule will help speed up a basic action of the game," MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said.
An Arizona Fall League game played in October experimented with new measures to speed up pace of play, and the game took two hours and 14 minutes. During the game, a 20-second pitch clock was used and breaks between half-innings were limited to two minutes and five seconds.
A pitch clock will not be used this season in MLB, but a 20-second pitch clock will be used in Double-A and Triple-A games in 2015. Arizona Fall League games were 10 minutes shorter in 2014 than they were last season when the new pace-of-play rules were implemented.
In an interview earlier in the month, Cubs manager Joe Maddon said he doesn't know why baseball needs to change the game in the first place, saying it probably has to do with the media and getting stories in by their deadline.
"I'd like to know the real reason why we need to do something about it," Maddon said. "What is the purpose behind the faster game? I'm not really clear on that. So that, I don't understand."
- Scooby Axson