As part of the ongoing effort to cut down on the length of games, Major League Baseball has unilaterally implemented a new mound visit rule to help speed up games. The use of a pitch clock, which has been used in Minor League Baseball, was not added to the new rules for the 2018 season.
Official Baseball Rule 5.10(I), governing that the second time in an inning by a coach and/or manager must result in the pitcher being replaced will remain in effect.
The added rule limits visits to the mound by a coach, catcher or other player. Mound visits that do not result in the pitcher being removed – no matter whether it’s by a catcher, infielder or coach – will be limited to six total visits in a nine-inning game. Each team will be awarded an extra visit for every extra inning that is played.
The new rule defines a mound visit as either a manager or coach leaving the dugout to speak to the pitcher. It also refers to a player leaving his position to confer with the pitcher or vice versa. In other words, the pitcher going to another player’s position to speak to a player also constitutes a visit without regard to where on the field a visit takes place.
The rule does allow for discussions between pitchers and position players that occur between batters in the normal course of play that don’t require either player to relocate and visits to the mound after the announcement of an offensive substitution to take place without counting against the total number of mound visits. It also allows players to visit the mound to clean their spikes during rainy conditions and visits due to an apparent injury to the pitcher to take place without counting as a mound visit.
Where it could get interesting is if a pitcher and catcher have trouble communicating signs for the location and/or type of pitch. If a team still has mound visits remaining, such a visit will count as a mound visit. If they have used all of their allotted visits, the home plate umpire may allow the catcher to visit the mound to clear up the confusion if the catcher requests that the rule be waived in such a situation. There is no immediate penalty for players who violate the mound visit limits, but the commissioner’s office will apparently track incidents of violations and could fine players an escalating amount under the “just cause” clause of the CBA.
The time between innings will be limited to 2:05 for a locally televised game during the regular season and 2:25 for breaks during a nationally televised game. Postseason games will have 2:55 between innings.
Pitchers will also no longer be granted eight warm-up pitches, but will have to stop throwing warm-up pitches 20-seconds prior to the end of the inning or pitching change break, regardless of how many pitches he’s thrown. The umpire will signal for a final pitch at the 25-second mark and the batter will be instructed to immediately leave the on-deck circle when the final warm-up pitch is thrown. The pitcher must begin his motion for the first pitch as soon as the batter steps into the box and is “alert to the pitcher.”
The goal is that the pitcher must begin his motion to deliver the first pitch at the exact moment that the allotted time expires.
Under special circumstances including a delay in the warm-up pitches not due to a fault of the players (injury, equipment issue or playing field issue), the pitcher believes that the pitcher is at a legitimate risk of injury if he is not allowed to continue throwing warm-up pitches or if the umpire believes the batter has a legitimate risk of injury if not given more time to enter the batter’s box. The umpire can also decide that any other special circumstance could warrant additional time for warm-up pitches.
It was thought that commissioner Rob Manfred might institute a pitch clock which has been used in both Triple-A and Double-A baseball for the 2015 season after it was used experimentally during the 2014 Arizona Fall League season.