Major League Baseball and the Atlantic League recently announced a new three-year partnership between the organizations.
The agreement permitted MLB to test experimental playing rules and equipment during the Atlantic League regular season. MLB would then observe the changes to see if they should be implemented at the major-league level.
Now, before the changes could be implemented in regular-season Atlantic League action, the two baseball organizations have announced some modifications to the experimental playing rules in a news release on Wednesday.
Those modifications will have an impact on the games that York Revolution fans will watch at PeoplesBankPark during the 2019 season.
First, the use of radar tracking technology to assist the home-plate umpire in calling balls and strikes will be implemented gradually over the course of the 2019 season rather than on Atlantic League opening day.
Second, the plan to extend the distance between the pitching rubber and home plate by 24 inches has been delayed from the second half of the Atlantic League's 2019 season to the same point in 2020.
Extending the distance between the pitching rubber and home plate had come under some criticism that it could lead to pitcher injuries. When asked about that possibility recently, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said: “That’s why we’re doing it in the Atlantic League.”
That remark also came under criticism, with some alleging that Manfred apparently didn't care about the health of Atlantic League players. That reaction may have led to the delay in the implementation of the rule.
The news release: The news release from the Atlantic League and MLB stated the following about the modifications:
"These changes reflect the dynamic nature of the partnership, as well as a joint desire that the upcoming technology upgrades at ALPB ballparks be fully installed and calibrated prior to implementation of these experimental playing rules."
Atlantic League president Rick White also weighed in on the modifications.
“Our partnership with Major League Baseball calls for ongoing mutual consultation," he said in the news release. "As we conduct discussions and work together, certain adjustments will need to be made on an ongoing basis in order to serve the partnership’s priority of providing the best possible data to Major League Baseball in the highly competitive Atlantic League environment. This is, and will remain, a thoughtful relationship intended to best serve the future of the game of baseball.”
Other changes: Following are some of the other changes planned for Atlantic League games this season:
►No mound visits will be permitted by players or coaches other than for pitching changes or medical issues.
►Pitchers must face a minimum of three batters, or reach the end of an inning before they exit the game, unless the pitcher becomes injured.
►The size of first, second and third base will be increased from 15 inches square to 18 inches square.
►Two infielders must be on each side of the second-base bag when the pitch is released, with the penalty being that the pitch is called a ball.
►The time between innings and pitching changes will be reduced from 2 minutes, 5 second to 1:45.