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New MLB rules are designed to speed up and shorten games

Angels players look on from the dugout during a intrasquad game at Angel Stadium.
Baseball will have a different look and feel once the coronavirus-shortened 2020 MLB season gets underway.
(Sean M. Haffey / Associated Press)

Baseball is back, but not in the way you remember it.

You not only will need to become accustomed to watching the sport played in empty stadiums with piped-in crowd noise serving as a backing track. You also will need to become accustomed to new rules designed primarily to speed up and shorten games.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic caused the suspension of spring training, Major League Baseball announced rule changes intended to speed up the pace of play. Most were retained when the league implemented the abbreviated 60-game season. A few others were added to the list, too.

Take a peek at how different baseball will be when the season begins Thursday.

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Designated hitter in both leagues

All teams will feature a designated hitter in their lineups this year. Maybe it’s a hint of things to come after the next round of collective bargaining. In the meantime, the implementation of a DH in the National League as well as the American League is meant to alleviate players’ workloads during a shortened season crammed into 67 days.

The legitimacy of the MLB season will depend on players staying on the field. If they do, the World Series champion will have overcome unique obstacles.

Dodgers fans, rejoice: It will be a lot easier for manager Dave Roberts to keep a hot bat in the lineup without having to worry about keeping, say, Justin Turner on his feet too many days in a row.

Extra innings, extra runner

A runner, namely the person in the batting order who directly precedes the inning’s lead-off hitter, will be placed on second base at the start of every half-inning after the ninth.

The rule stands to benefit the high-powered Angels lineup, which not only boasts reigning MVP Mike Trout but also features 2019 World Series champion Anthony Rendon, two-way star Shohei Ohtani, veteran slugger Albert Pujols and All-Stars Justin Upton and Tommy La Stella. The six players combined hit 79 homers and drive in 249 runs through their first 60 games in 2019, an average of 13 home runs and 41 RBI each.

No fighting

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Massive on-field brawl and smaller in-your-face arguments between managers and umpires will not be tolerated this season. According to the operations manual, “players or managers who leave their positions to argue with umpires, come within six feet of an umpire or opposing player or manager for the purpose of argument, or engage in altercations on the field are subject to ejection and discipline, including fines and suspensions.”

Other changes of note

Any pitcher that enters a game must face at least three batters or pitch to the end of a half-inning.

Opening day rosters can include up to 30 players with a minimum of 25. Rosters shrink to 28 on the 15th day of the season and to 26 on the 29th day. There will not be a limit on the number of pitchers.

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Expected to be shunned by fellow players and taunted by fans in visiting parks this season, the Houston Astros will be shielded by health and safety precautions.

Position players will be permitted to pitch in a game at any point. The league originally wanted to bar position players from taking the mound until their team trailed or led by at least six runs or entered extra innings.

Should inclement weather force a game to be suspended before it becomes official, the game will be resumed from the point of suspension at a later date rather than start over.

The standard injured list stint for all players will be 10 days. MLB had planned to implement a 15-day IL for pitchers for 2020.

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In keeping with health standards, pitchers will be discouraged from licking their fingers while on the mound. They may carry in their back pockets a wet rag, moistened only with water. If they use the rag, they must wipe their fingers dry before touching the ball.

The trade deadline will be Aug. 31.


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