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Atlantic League to Move Mound Back, Alter Designated Hitter Rule in 2021

The Atlantic League will move its mound back 12 inches from home plate during the 2021 season, according to the Washington Post's Jacob Bogage and Chelsea Janes.

The mound in the Atlantic League will now sit 61'6" from home plate. The change marks the first alteration to the professional mound since MLB lowered the mound prior to the 1969 season. 

The Atlantic League is independent and not officially affiliated with MLB. But it has become a breeding ground for potential MLB rule changes in recent years, including the debut of robot umpires in 2019.

MLB officials reportedly "pushed" for the mound move in the Atlantic League for the 2021 season, according to the Washington Post. MLB hopes that moving the mound back will help slow the increase of strikeouts and home runs at the Major League level in recent years.

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“[MLB leaders] reached the conclusion that the things that drew us to the game in the first place are being eclipsed by absolute outcomes, and, frankly, people find it boring,” an MLB official told the Post. “Batters will hit the ball more frequently, and that’s really the root of what we’re doing here.”

The Atlantic League will also introduce a change to the designated hitter rule this season. Teams will be allowed to use the designated hitter as long as their starting pitcher is in the game, but the DH will then be removed when a reliever enters. The new pitcher must either bat or be substituted out of the game for a pinch hitter.

The designated hitter was featured in both MLB's American and National Leagues for the first time in 2020. The traditional AL-only DH setup has returned for 2021, though that could be amended when a new collective bargaining agreement is struck before the 2022 season. 

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