Big changes for minor league baseball - including in Salem

Bessie Dean
March 15, 2018

Fans at Portland's Hadlock Field will see a significant change in 2018: Runners at second base to start extra innings. If the runner scores, an unearned run will be charged to the pitcher. The higher the league the fewer the visits allowed, from six in AAA to ten for A. Pitch timers will also be instituted with a 15 second timer when the bases are empty to 20 seconds when someone is on base.

"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. Triple-A clubs will be allowed six (6) visits per team, Double-A clubs will be allowed eight (8) visits per team, Single-A clubs will be allowed 10 visits per team and there will not be a limit on mound visits for Short Season and Rookie-level clubs.

An additional visit will be added for each extra inning. However, if extra innings occur, teams are allowed one additional mound visit per inning.

Major changes announced for minor league baseball today. For scoring purposes, the runner will be treated as though he reached second base via error (though no error will be awarded).

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The runner at second will be the batter in the order prior to that inning's leadoff hitter, and players removed from the game will be ineligible to return. Mound visits do not include discussions between the pitcher and positional player in-between at-bats and "do not require either the position player or the pitcher to relocate", a player visiting the mound to clean his spikes, an injury or visits to the mound after a substitution offensively. There is, however, a provision that states a capped-out catcher can ask the umpire for permission to visit the mound in cases where the two are mixed up on their signs.

A pitcher must start his windup or be in the set position before the timer expires, and batters must be in the batter's box and alert to the pitcher with at least 7 seconds remaining.

In the minor leagues, with developing pitchers on pitch counts and inning limitations, extra-inning games can tax a team's roster. The rules will have a grace period for the first 15 days of the season, until April 20, and only warnings will be given for violations during that time, The Washington Post reported. It would nearly make sense, then, to give each team the option of beginning the inning with a runner on second with nobody out or a runner on third with one out. If the batter isn't in the batter's box with seven seconds left on the clock, then a strike will be awarded.

"We feel that limiting mound visits and decreasing the amount of time between pitches with no runners on base will further improve the pace of play and make it a more enjoyable experience for our fans", O'Conner said.

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