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MLB expected to implement a pitch clock, shift bans, larger bases and more for 2023 season

The changes are expected to be approved in a vote Friday

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2022 National Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred speaks during the Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony at Clark Sports Center on July 24, 2022 in Cooperstown, New York.
Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

September 9 Update: The voting has finished, and big changes are indeed coming for the MLB. A pitch clock will be implemented, and shifts will be officially banned as of 2023. Players voted against these changes, but the vote for bigger bases was unanimously passed.

It’s not official yet, but Major League Baseball is expected to add significant changes to the look and pace of the game beginning in 2023.

The new regulations, which include a pitch clock, defensive shift restrictions and larger bases, are expected to be approved by MLB’s 11-person competition committee in a vote at noon Eastern on Friday. Here’s a rundown on what’s likely coming, per The Athletic.

Pitch clock

  • Pitchers will have 20 seconds to start their throwing motion with runners on base, and 15 seconds with the bases empty.
  • The timer starts when the pitcher has the ball, and the catcher and the batter are in the dirt near home plate and play is ready — meaning, runners have retreated if there was a foul ball, or exited the field after an out.
  • The catcher must be in the catcher’s box with nine seconds left on the timer.
  • The hitter must have both feet set in the batter’s box and be “alert to the pitcher” within eight seconds.
  • If the pitcher or catcher violates the rule, an automatic ball is charged. If the hitter violates the rule, an automatic strike is charged.
  • There is a 30-second clock between batters, except for the final out of an inning. The timer for inning breaks and pitching changes is 2 minutes, 15 seconds.

Pace of play

  • Pitchers are allowed to step off the mound for a pickoff or any other reason — known as a “disengagement” — only twice per plate appearance if there is a runner on base. The count resets if that runner advances via a stolen base or some other manner during the plate appearance. Stepping off the mound also resets the pitch clock.
  • Mound visits will have a 30-second clock starting when the manager or coach leaves the dugout, or whenever the defensive player leaves their position. The umpire has the discretion to grant additional time if a manager or coach is dealing with a physical ailment. There is no timer if a trainer goes out with the manager or coach for “a bona fide medical issue.”
  • Batters can ask for and be granted time once per plate appearance and have to ask for time orally. That resets the pitch clock.
  • The length of a batter’s walk-up music cannot exceed 10 seconds.
  • “Extended inning events,” like the playing of “God Bless America,” or anything that stops all action in the ballpark, requires approval from the commissioner’s office, and advance notice of those approved events has to go to the MLBPA.

Shift restrictions

  • A minimum of four players, besides the pitcher and catcher, must have both feet completely in front of the outer boundary of the infield dirt, and two fielders need to be entirely on either side of second base by the time the pitcher releases the ball.
  • Every team has to designate two infielders on each side of second base, and those infielders may not switch sides during the game, except if there’s a substitution for one of them.
  • The penalty for a violation is a ball and the ball is dead, unless a hitter reaches base. In that case, the play stands. If any other play occurs, such as a sacrifice, the manager of the batting team can tell the umpire whether he wants to accept the play.
  • Teams can challenge whether a team complied with the shift.

Larger bases

  • The bases will be 18 inches square, rather than the present 15 inches.