Minor League Baseball announced Wednesday new pace of play rules for 2018 that were created in partnership with the MLB, and big changes are coming to the way extra innings are played.
MiLB laid out a plan to speed up the game by starting extra innings with a runner on second base, limiting mound visits and using a 15-second pitch clock with no runners on base.
"We believe these changes to extra innings will enhance the fans' enjoyment of the game and will become something that the fans will look forward to on nights where the game is tied late in the contest," MiLB president Pat O'Conner said in a statement.
The rules are intended to shorten the length of extra-inning games and the number of mound visits throughout a game, keeping in mind player safety and providing more action for viewers. The initiative also is expected to eliminate shortages of pitchers after extra-inning games and the need to shuffle players between minor-league levels.
"Player safety has been an area of growing concern for our partners at the Major League Baseball level, and the impact that lengthy extra innings games has on pitchers, position players and an entire organization was something that needed to be addressed," O'Conner said.
The extra-inning rule is one that has been used internationally. With the change, a runner will be placed on second base to start each extra inning, and then the inning will proceed as normal. The runner will be the player who made the final out and pitchers will not be charged an earned run if that runner scores. The runner will be scored as reaching second on an error, but no error will be charged to the team or player.
Additionally, the limits on mound visits are an adaptation of MLB's new policy of six per game that was implemented last month for this season. Teams in Triple-A will follow the MLB rule. However, Double-A teams will be allowed eight visits while Single-A teams will be allowed 10. Short Season and Rookie-level teams will not be limited.
Another initiative to speed the game comes with changes to the pitch clock rules. In Triple-A and Double-A, pitchers will have 15 seconds to begin their windup when no runners are on base. The pitch clock will return to 20 seconds when runners are on the base.
The new rules will go into effect beginning April 20. There will be a grace period from April 5-19 when players will receive warnings for the infractions.