In all likelihood, a pitch clock is coming to major-league baseball this season.
Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports the MLB Players Association is expected to reject commissioner Rob Manfred's latest pace-of-play proposal, paving the way for Major League Baseball to implement rule changes unilaterally. From Rosenthal:
The players' union is expected to reject Manfred's revised proposal on new rules to improve the pace of play, sources told The Athletic on Thursday.
Such a decision by the union would set the stage for Manfred to unilaterally implement his original proposal, which included a 20-second pitch clock and reduced mound visits.
The players are not opposed to pace-of-play improvements and will act professionally if Manfred orders new rules, sources said. But in addition to objections to the pitch clock, players have expressed a variety of other concerns, including the dead time resulting from instant replay and innings break. Some players also worry that speeding up the game will increase the risk of injury. Others want to preserve baseball's timeless aspect and fear losing fans who want the sport to maintain its traditions.
MLB and the commissioner's office has always had the ability to implement rule changes unilaterally, but they prefer to work with the union to maintain labor peace. In this case though, Manfred very much wants more pace-of-play measures, and the MLBPA isn't playing ball, so to speak.
By rule, Manfred can only implement rule changes proposed last offseason, which includes a pitch clock. A 20-second pitch clock has been used in the minors -- pitchers who take too long to throw a pitch are charged with a ball, and hitters who are not in the box in time are charged with a strike -- and it has cut down on the overall time of game dramatically.
MLB has yet to officially announce these rule changes, but expect it to happen fairly soon. They'll want these measures in place for the start of spring training so players can use Grapefruit League and Cactus League games to adjust.
Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports has obtained the memo with the proposed rule changes, with more specifics. The pitch clock starts when the pitcher has the ball and is on the mound (not the rubber, so he can't stay off of it for a while) and stops when either he starts his windup or comes set in the stretch. The pitcher can step off to reset the clock, though. Batters have to step into the box within five seconds of the clock starting.
Pitchers who violate the rule will get one warning and then it's an automatic ball each time after that.
On mound visits, anyone visiting the mound -- including the catcher -- means it counts as a trip. If the pitcher leaves the mound to talk with anyone, that's also a trip. Two trips in the same inning means the pitcher must be removed and the team only gets six total trips in a game before each ensuing trip has to be a pitching change.
MLB is also tightening up the time between innings and between batters.