DUNEDIN, Fla. — The winds of change are coming to baseball this year and next. And Aaron Boone is just fine with it.
Mickey Callaway? He’s going to wait and see.
Major League Baseball and the Players Association on Thursday jointly announced rules changes, some of which will go into effect this season and some of which won’t begin until 2020.
The biggest tweaks that will affect the game on the field won’t start until 2020. The most controversial is a three-batter rule for starters and relievers. A pitcher will have to face at least three batters unless he finishes a half-inning or is injured while on the mound.
MLBPA executive director Tony Clark said the union did not agree to the three-batter rule but won’t fight it. The commissioner’s office has the right to unilaterally implement it next year under the collective-bargaining agreement because it told the players of its plans to do so.
The intent of most of the changes is to speed up the game. The parade of one-batter relief appearances that has slowed an already slow sport to a crawl will end after this season.
The Yankees don’t have a lefty specialist, so Boone doesn’t think the three-batter rule will affect his team too much. “I’m OK with that,” he said. “There’s not a lot of times I’m going one hitter at a time or even two hitters at a time with our guys.”
Said Callaway: “The three-batter rule is an interesting one. We’ll see when they implement it how we’re going to deal with it. I don’t have an opinion on it. It’s not being implemented this year, so I’m not too worried about it.”
Also new for 2019: Between-inning commercial breaks will be shortened. Mound visits will be reduced from six to five. There will be one trade deadline of July 31, so say goodbye to August non-waiver deadline deals.
The commissioner’s office previously announced a change for this season in which managers will be required to send lineups to MLB 15 minutes before they are released to the public. This is meant to “reduce integrity risks,” an MLB statement said, now that the Supreme Court has legalized sports gambling in all 50 states. “I’m sure we’ll get the mechanics down of exactly how that all goes down,” Boone said. “It will not affect how I communicate with my guys.”
In 2020, rosters will expand from 25 to 26 until Aug. 31. This season will be the last with a 40-man roster expansion in September. In 2020, each team will expand to 28 starting Sept. 1. A joint player-management committee will set a limit on the number of pitchers allowed on a roster.
“I like the roster ideas,” Boone said. “I like the 26th man. Definitely like that. And I think I’m OK with 28.”
Also, MLB agreed not to implement a 20-second pitch clock during the collective-bargaining agreement, which ends after the 2021 season. MLB had been experimenting with a pitch clock in spring training, but the union was very much against it.
“Nothing we can’t adjust to and live with,” Callaway said. “I think Major League Baseball is trying to make the game better. And I think they’re going to succeed at that.”
The parties also agreed to discuss a renegotiation and extension of the collective-bargaining agreement on economic issues. The union is upset with the slow pace of the free-agent market in the last few offseasons and wants changes to the system. The union also has proposed bringing the DH to the National League, but no mention was made of that Thursday.
With Tim Healey
Major rules changes
n Trade waivers will be eliminated, meaning no player can be traded after July 31 through the end of the regular season. Players who clear outright waivers can still be claimed and will be eligible for the postseason if they are in the organization before Sept. 1.
n Mound visits without pitching changes will be cut from six to five.
n MLB has the right to cut half-inning breaks to 2 minutes this year, down from 2:05 for most games and 2:25 for nationally televised games.
n Fan voting for the All-Star Game will be divided into two rounds, with the top three vote-getters advancing for all positions except the outfield, for which six will move on.
n Home Run Derby prize money will be increased to $2.5 million, including $1 million for the winner.
n A joint management-union committee will study potential changes to the strike zone, the height of the mound and the distance from the mound to the plate.
n Each team will start the 10th inning with a runner on second in the All-Star Game and spring training games.
n All pitchers must face at least three batters or end a half-inning, unless injured.
n The active roster limit will increase by one to 26 from Opening Day through Aug. 31 and will drop from 40 to 28 through the end of the regular season.
n Unless changed by the committee, the injured list and option recall minimum period for pitchers will increase from 10 days to 15.
n Position players will be prohibited from pitching through the ninth inning unless the player’s team is winning or losing by six or more runs when he takes the mound.
n MLB has the right to cut half-inning breaks to 1:55.