MLB Reportedly Nearing Significant Rule Changes on DH, Pitcher Usage


Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association are discussing significant rule changes that could make the game much different from what fans are accustomed to, according to multiple reports.

Among those rule changes would be a three-batter minimum for pitchers.

That would help quicken the pace of play and avoid situations where specialists come in to face one or two batters before being replaced by another reliever.

The possible move to a three-batter minimum, first reported by The Athletic on Tuesday, would apply to all pitchers, including starters.

That would eliminate situations such as what happened in last season’s NL Championship Series, when Wade Miley of the Milwaukee Brewers started Game 5 against the Los Angeles Dodgers, threw five pitches to one batter and was then replaced.

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According to the report, the rule would not apply in instances in which pitchers finish an inning or are injured while on the mound.

The Athletic reported MLB made the three-batter minimum proposal to the players union on Jan. 14 and the union “did not strongly oppose the idea,” according to sources. It did, however, suggest that the implementation be delayed until the 2020 season instead of 2019.

Also proposed by the union is a change that’s sure to be controversial with traditionalists: instituting the designated hitter in the National League.

The union reportedly is pushing for the universal DH rule to be in play for the 2019 season.

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One person who would be in favor of that rule is Washington Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer. The three-time Cy Young winner was injured while batting in 2015 and said that both the NL and AL should use the same rules.

“If you look at it from the macro side, who’d people rather see hit: Big Papi or me?” Scherzer told CBS Sports, referring to former Boston Red Sox DH David Ortiz. “Who would people rather see, a real hitter hitting home runs or a pitcher swinging a wet newspaper? Both leagues need to be on the same set of rules.”

The union also suggested an idea that could essentially be called the “Kyler Murray Rule.”

In the wake of the Oklahoma Sooners Heisman winner potentially leaving baseball for the NFL after being a first-round pick by the Oakland Athletics, the union wants MLB to bring back the major league contract for players.

That contract is an enticement for two-sport athletes like Murray to stick with baseball instead of football. Currently, all draft contracts are minor league deals subject to a draft pool.

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While Murray did get a $4.66 million signing bonus with the A’s, the proposed new rule would not place a cap on the amount offered to players in his situation.

Other proposals from both MLB and the union include:

• A single trade deadline before the All-Star break.

• Expansion of rosters to 26, with a 12-pitcher maximum.

• Draft advantages for winning teams and penalties for losing teams.

• A study to lower the mound.

• A 20-second pitch clock.

Even if no deal is reached between MLB and the union, Commissioner Rob Manfred has the power to enforce and implement the rule changes.

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Ross Kelly has been a sportswriter since 2009.
Ross Kelly has been a sportswriter since 2009 and previously worked for ESPN, CBS and STATS Inc. A native of Louisiana, Ross now resides in Houston.
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