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Major League Baseball finalizes rules changes for 2022 season

With the designated hitter adopted in both leagues, pitchers such as the Angels' Shohei Ohtani who start games in the batting order can remain in the game as a DH after leaving the mound.Matt York/Associated Press

Major League Baseball finalized the rules change Thursday to bring back automatic runners in extra innings for a third straight season.

Despite an easing of pandemic restrictions, MLB and the Players Association agreed to keep the controversial rule that starts each team with a runner on second base during extra innings for the 2022 regular season.

The agreement regarding on-field rules modifications also includes expanding active rosters from 26 players to 28 from Opening Day on April 7 through May 1 this year because of the delayed start of spring training.

Another new rule benefits Angels two-way star Shohei Ohtani. With the designated hitter adopted in both leagues, pitchers who start games in the batting order can remain in the game as a DH after leaving the mound. A DH can also enter the game to pitch. That change will apply to multiple seasons.

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The “zombie” runner modification was applied to the 2020 and ‘21 regular seasons as part of adjustments because of COVID-19.

There were 78 extra-inning games during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, and the longest by innings were a pair of 13-inning contests at Houston. Every previous season since 1901 had at least one game of 15 innings or longer

There were 233 extra-inning games last year, and the longest was the Dodgers’ 16-inning win at the Padres on Aug. 25.

The modification for 2020 and 2021 that shortened doubleheaders to scheduled seven-inning games was not continued for 2022.

Braves release Holt

Former Red Sox utilityman Brock Holt ended his bid to win a bench spot with the Braves on Thursday when he requested and was granted his release.

Holt, 33, signed with Atlanta on a minor league deal and was invited to the major league camp. He was competing with versatile veteran Phil Gosselin and Pat Valaika for a utility position.

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Former Red Sox utilityman Brock Holt is a free agent again.Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

Holt hit .209 with two homers and 23 RBIs in 76 games with the Rangers in 2021. He made his major league debut with the Pirates in 2012 before playing seven seasons with the Red Sox.

Holt played every infield and outfield position with the Red Sox but was primarily a third baseman with the Rangers. He has a .262 career batting average in 10 seasons.

Royals exercise option on Matheny

The Royals exercised their option on Mike Matheny for the 2023 season, eliminating any uncertainty over whether their manager will remain with the club after the coming season. Matheny is entering his third season with the Royals, which includes the COVID-19-shortened 2020 season and his first 162-game run as the manager last season. He is 100-122 with Kansas City and 691-596 overall, which includes seven seasons as the manager of the cross-state Cardinals … Yu Darvish will make his second straight Opening Day start for the Padres when they open their season on the road against the Diamondbacks on April 7. New manager Bob Melvin made the decision to go with the righthander, who was 8-11 last season with a 4.22 ERA. His late-season fade in 2021 mirrored the rest of the Padres, who spent a lot of money during the offseason, started the season with high hopes, but ended with a 79-83 record, far behind the Giants and Dodgers. The five-time All-Star also started on opening day for the Rangers in 2017 … As expected, Shane Bieber will start the Guardians’ season opener on April 7 at the Royals. Manager Terry Francona made the announcement after speaking to the righthander, who missed three months last season with a shoulder strain. Bieber will be the 12th pitcher in franchise history to make three consecutive Opening Day starts..

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