Major League Baseball announces new rule changes, including 3-batter minimum, extra roster spot

Ross Houston
February 14, 2020

A baseball ready for export is pictured at the Rawlings factory in Turrialba, Costa Rica March 3, 2010.

Under that new rule, pitchers can only be removed from a game without facing at least three batters in the event of injury or illness at the crew chief's discretion.

Major League Baseball officially announced a group of rules changes for the 2020 season that have been widely expected for months, including some aimed at speeding up the pace of games.

There were 2,162 pitching appearances of three batters or fewer previous year, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, but 1,471 of them finished with the end of a half-inning or a game.

This will, for example, effect the usage of a left-handed specialist out of the bullpen, often brought in to face a left-handed batter before another pitching change. That rule goes into effect on Thursday, March 12.

Other pitching changes include clubs carrying a maximum of 13 pitchers during the regular season through August 31 and again in the postseason.

New September roster limit: Teams must carry 28 players between Sept. 1 and the end of the regular season - with a maximum of 14 pitchers.

Additionally, teams will be allowed to designate "two-way" players, who both pitch and play a position/act as the designated hitter. Stats from 2019 and 2018 can be used to designate such players. Players who may receive that designation in 2020 include Los Angeles Angels star Shohei Ohtani and Cincinnati Reds outfielder/reliever Michael Lorenzen.

- Extra player rule: Teams previously could call up a 26th player for special circumstances - mostly because of a doubleheader.

Position players are 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. They can still do so, temporarily expanding their roster to 27.

In order to address the use of two-way players, Major League Baseball also instituted a rule stipulating that two-way players can not return from the injured list until 15 days after they initially went on the list, as opposed to the previous 10 days. The 10-day IL was introduced prior to the 2017 season.

- Option period: Pitchers optioned to the minor leagues must stay there for 15 days, rather than 10, which is still the minimum for position players.

Less time to challenge: Teams now only have 20 seconds to challenge a player (instead of the previous limit of 30 seconds).

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