Major League Baseball pitchers must face three batters or end inning under new rule

MLB announces rule changes for 2020 season

Every starting or relief pitcher will be forced to face at least three batters in one of several rule changes for the 2020 season announced Wednesday by Major League Baseball.

The new pitching rule is the major change, created to speed up the game by eliminating some pitching changes.

The new rules cover four basic areas: minimum batters for relief pitchers, active roster limits, injured list reinstatement and manager challenges. Per the new rule, a relief pitcher entering the game can not be pulled until the conclusion of three at-bats (including the current batter).

Major League Baseball regular-season rosters from the start of the season through the end of August will expand from 25 to 26 players, including a maximum of 13 pitchers.

The expanded September rosters, and resulting in-game machinations involving pitching changes and double switches, were also being increasingly called into question around the game as negatively impacting the integrity of late-season races for the postseason.

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Managers often have used relievers to face a single hitter in specific situations, but the change, which begins with pre-season games on March 12, will force major strategy alterations. For this year, a player can use 2018 or 2019 to meet the requirement. In order to qualify for the two-way designation, a player must throw at least 20 Major League Baseball innings and make 20 Major League Baseball starts at any position while recording at least three plate appearances in each of those starts. According to the Commissioner's Office, "players who qualify as "Two-Way Players" may appear as pitchers during a game without counting toward a Clubs' pitcher limitations". Players who may receive that designation in 2020 include Los Angeles Angels star Shohei Ohtani and Cincinnati Reds outfielder/reliever Michael Lorenzen.

- Position players pitching: A position player may pitch only in extra innings or if his team is losing or winning by more than six runs.

Clubs may not restore pitchers or two-way players from the hurt list till 15 days have elapsed from the date of the preliminary lineup relocation, which is a boost from 10 days under the prior guideline. The league has also limited the ability for position players to pitch with that rule. There still is a seven-day concussion IL.

Club managers now have just 20 seconds to challenge a play on the field, down from 30, another move created to force decision making and move games along.

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