The Atlantic League, an independent baseball league that includes the Ducks, announced four new experimental rules that will take effect when the second half of the season begins Friday. The announcement came via a news release Thursday morning.
The new rules, which spawn from an agreement between Major League Baseball and the Atlantic League that allows MLB to test experimental rules in the independent league, include: requiring a pitcher to step off the rubber in order to attempt a pickoff; allowing one foul bunt with two strikes before a strikeout is called; allowing batters to “steal” first base on any pitch not caught in flight (batters can be thrown out if he attempts to run); and making the check-swing rule more “batter friendly.”
These rules will be added to the existing experimental rules that were implemented before the season began, including: a ban on mound visits by players or coaches other than for pitching changes or medical issues; pitchers having to face a minimum of three batters or reach the end of the inning before they can exit a game, except in the case of an injury; increasing the size of bases from 15 inches square to 18 inches square; and reducing time between innings from 2:05 to 1:45.
At some point during the second half, balls and strikes will be called using electronic assistance. The system debuted at Wednesday’s Atlantic League All-Star Game, but an official start date for regular season games has not been announced.
Atlantic League president Rick White said he expects the necessary equipment to be installed in all eight Atlantic League ballparks in a “week to 10 days. Once that happens, we’re ready to go.”
The Ducks, who have the best record in the league, won the Liberty Division first-half championship and earned an automatic playoff spot.