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Limited inning breaks part of MLB's pace of play rules implemented in 2015

In an effort to speed up the game in a more practical way, Major League Baseball is taking a logical approach in 2015.

Leon Halip/Getty Images

Friday morning Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association announced several rule changes that will be implemented in the 2015 season. Of the three, two are new, with modifications having been made to instant replay. The rules will take effect immediately and penalties will apply for noncompliance, however, during spring training and the first month of the regular season, no penalties will be assessed as teams adjust to the new rules.

Players must now keep at least one foot in the batter's box at all times, with some exceptions. MLB has not specified whether they will transition the exceptions used in the minors, or whether a new list will be composed at this time, but it would make sense that the supporting exceptions would transfer. The batter's box rule is an adaptation from the minor leagues, which, according to minor league baseball rule 6.02(d) states:

(1) The batter shall keep at least one foot in the batter's box throughout the batter's time at bat, unless one of the following exceptions applies, in which case the batter may leave the batter's box but not the dirt area surrounding home plate:

(i) The batter swings at a pitch;

(ii) The batter is forced out of the batter's box by a pitch;

(iii) A member of either team requests and is granted "Time";

(iv) A defensive player attempts a play on a runner at any base;

(v) The batter feints a bunt;

(vi) A wild pitch or passed ball occurs;

(vii) The pitcher leaves the dirt area of the pitching mound after receiving the ball; or

(viii) The catcher leaves the catcher's box to give defensive signals.

(2) The batter may leave the batter's box and the dirt area surrounding home plate when "Time" is called for the purpose of

(i) making a substitution; or

(ii) a conference by either team.

However, contrary to the minor league rules, which state that the batter will be penalized with an automatic strike if he does not adhere to the rules, MLB will not adopt this rule. Instead — and this is applicable to both the batter's box and the limited inning breaks — players who fail to comply with the rule will receive anything from a warning to a fine, "with discipline resulting for flagrant violators."

While the pitch clock will be part of minor league baseball, it will not be making an appearance in the majors. At least, not this year. There will be two clocks for non-game action and in between innings, with one being placed "on or near the outfield scoreboard, and a smaller timer will be installed on the façade behind home plate near the press box."

Their purpose is to serve as a way to keep track of the newly implemented limited inning breaks, which will be 2:25 for local games, and 2:45 for nationally broadcast games. The announcement came as a confirmation of what Detroit Tigers President and GM Dave Dombrowski said on February 3 at the Detroit Sports Broadcasters Association's Tigers Day luncheon.

"When it says 2:25, between the last out and the next inning starts, that first pitch will come at 2:25," Dombrowski said at the luncheon. "It won't be at 2:25 the hitter is announced, and he strolls in and the pitcher gets on the mound. The pitcher is going to be ready to deliver the ball at 2:25."

The guidelines for what points of time a batter or pitcher must be ready by are as follows:

Time Remaining


40 Seconds

PA announces batter and begins to play walk-up music

30 Seconds

Pitcher throws final warm-up pitch

25 Seconds

Batter's walk-up music ends

20 Seconds-5 Seconds

Batter enters the batter's box

20 Seconds-0 Seconds

Pitcher begins motion to deliver pitch

As for a pitcher's warm-ups, unless he or the catcher was the final batter of the previous half-inning, no warm-up pitches are allowed when 30 seconds remain on the clock.

Pitchers will be permitted to throw as many warm-up pitches as they wish prior to the point when 30 seconds remain on the clock; however, pitchers will be deemed to have forfeited any of their traditional eight warm-up pitches that they are unable to complete prior to the 30-second deadline.

Any batter who hasn't stepped into the box by at least five second prior to the clock reaching "0," will have violated the rules and be subject to a warning or penalty.

In addition to the rule additions, MLB made modifications to the way in which managers make challenges using the instant replay system. This was discussed during the offseason and a decision was made in November, but there have been some additions since the initial adjustment over three months ago.

Managers considering a challenge must remain in the dugout and signal to the home plate umpire and players from the top step. However, in the event of an inning-ending challenge, "managers will be required to leave the dugout immediately in order to hold the defensive team on the field."

The following subsequent changes have also been added to instant replay:

– Whether a runner left the base early or properly touched a base on a tag-up play will be reviewable.

– A manager will retain his challenge after every call that is overturned.  Last year, a manager retained his challenge only after the first overturned call.

– A manager must use a challenge in order to review whether a play at home plate included a violation of the rule governing home plate collisions.  However, in the event that a manager is out of challenges after the start of the seventh inning, the crew chief may still choose to review whether there was a violation of the rule.

– During Postseason games, regular season tiebreaker games and the All-Star Game, managers will now have two challenges per game.

These are common sense additions that should have been added from the get-go, but at least MLB is acknowledging that point. The point is to get the calls right, and these should go a long way in making the correct calls, especially in the postseason when one play may dictate the outcome of an entire series. There will undoubtedly be modifications made as the season wears on and players adjust, but for the most part the rules are a step in the right direction.