Major League Baseball is making some changes designed to speed games but won’t implement more radical proposals this year.
The league and the players’ union announced an agreement Friday to enforce the rule requiring a hitter to keep at least one foot in the batter’s box in most cases. MLB also will post stadium clocks timing pitching changes and between-inning breaks.
MLB did not institute many of the ideas experimented with during the Arizona Fall League, such as a 20-second clock between pitches, a limitation of pitcher’s mound conferences involving catchers and managers, and no-pitch intentional walks. The pitch clock will be used in the minor leagues at Double-A and Triple-A.
Penalties for violating the new rules start May 1 and will involve only fines, and MLB said it is likely to announce only fines involving repeat flagrant violators.
In the AFL, strikes and balls were called as penalties.
‘‘I think it’s something that’s going to take some time,’’ San Diego Padres catcher Derek Norris said. ‘‘You’ve got guys playing for seven, eight years that have always stepped out of the box and taken a practice swing.’’
MLB cannot make unilateral changes to playing rules without the union’s consent unless it gives one year prior notice, so an agreement was necessary for any 2015 alterations. The World Umpires Association also approved.
‘‘The players believe that enforcing the rules that currently exist regarding between-inning breaks and plate appearances is the best way to address the issue of pace of play,’’ union head Tony Clark said in a statement. ‘‘We’re confident that today’s announcements will have a positive impact on the pace of the game without jeopardizing the integrity of the competition.’’
The average time of nine-inning games was a record 3 hours, 2 minutes last year, up from 2:33 in 1981.
‘‘These changes represent a step forward in our efforts to streamline the pace of play,’’ said Rob Manfred, who took over from Bud Selig as commissioner last month. ‘‘The most fundamental starting point for improving the pace of the average game involves getting into and out of breaks seamlessly.’’
The rule requiring hitter’s keep a foot in the box contains many exceptions, including swinging at a pitch, getting forced out by a pitch, calling time, faking a bunt and wild pitches and passed balls.
The clocks will be installed on or near outfield scoreboards and on facades behind home plate, near most press boxes. Inning breaks will be counted down from 2:25 for locally televised games and 2:45 for nationally televised games. Pitchers must throw their last warmup pitches before 30 seconds remaining, with exceptions if the pitcher or catcher is on base when the previous half-inning ends.
MLB will make a donation to the union’s charitable foundation based on compliance with the new rules.
The sides also announced changes for the second season of expanded video review by umpires.
Managers no longer will have to leave their dugouts to call for replays, unless the play in question ends an inning and the defensive team must be kept on the field. In addition, plays involving whether a runner left a base early or touched a base on a tag-up play will be subject to video review for the first time.
Managers also will retain the challenge for every overturned call, not just the first, and managers will have two challenges during tiebreaker and postseason games and the All-Star Game. A manager will be required to use a challenge to review violations of the home-plate collision rule, but the crew chief may call for a review from the seventh inning on if a manager is out of challenges.