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Last season, the designated hitter was used in National League games for the first time in MLB history. That was a function of the abbreviated and challenging 2020 season, and theoretically it reduced risk for pitchers, who were already performing under challenging circumstances. The use of the universal DH, however, raised the possibility that the rule would be made permanent in the NL. 

On that vital front, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports that MLB is advising its member clubs about the near-term future of the DH rule in the NL. Rosenthal writes: 

"MLB instructed clubs in a memo last week to proceed under the assumption the DH will not be used in the NL this year, though few will complain if the league and union reach agreement to the contrary."

Negotiations between MLB and the Players' Association are ongoing, so by no means is this the final word on the matter. Given that the DH rule in the NL would have serious bearing on how those 15 clubs conduct their offseasons -- and given that it's already December -- MLB needs to achieve some resolution on this matter sooner rather than later. 

The DH rule, in which a hitter is "designated" to bat for the pitcher while not playing a position in the field, has been used in the American League since 1973 and has been at least a periodic presence in the World Series since 1976. As well, the advent of interleague play in 1997 meant that NL teams used the DH regular season play for the first time. The 2020 season, however, was the first in which the DH was used universally for an entire season. Likely, the universal DH will be made permanent at some point, but it's not certain that will happen in time for the 2021 season.

More than likely, the matter won't be resolved permanently until the next Collective Bargaining Agreement is signed. That very likely won't happen until before the start of the 2022 season.