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MLB Agreement With Atlantic League Includes Experimenting With Robot Umpires, Banning Shifts & 3-Batter Minimum

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

A previously announced agreement between Major League Baseball and the Atlantic League to test new rules and equipment now has specific details, with robot umpires, restricted mound visits, mound height and banning shifts among the changes for the 2019 Atlantic League Championship Season.

MLB historically has used the Minor Leagues to experiment with potential rule changes, but their three-year agreement with the Atlantic League offers a setting where former Major League players who are hopeful of a comeback can provide feedback.

Moreover, the Atlantic League allows for the implementation of more radical changes. Something such as a pitch clock, which has made its way into 2019 Spring Training games, was first tested in the Minors.

Complete list of changes coming to the Atlantic League follows:

  • Home plate umpire assisted in calling balls and strikes by a TrackMan radar tracking system
  • No mound visits permitted by players or coaches other than for pitching changes or medical issues
  • Pitchers must face a minimum of three batters, or reach the end of an inning before they exit the game, unless the pitcher becomes injured
  • Increase size of first, second and third base from 15 inches square to 18 inches square
  • Require two infielders to be on each side of second base when a pitch is released (if not, the ball is dead and the umpire shall call a ball)
  • Time between innings and pitching changes reduced from 2:05 to 1:45
  • Distance from pitching rubber to home plate extended 24 inches, in the second half of the season only; with no change to mound height or slope

“This first group of experimental changes is designed to create more balls in play, defensive action, baserunning, and improve player safety,” MLB senior vice president of league economics & operations Morgan Sword said. “We look forward to seeing them in action in the Atlantic League.”

“Players sign in the Atlantic League for the Major League Baseball showcase opportunity it offers,” Atlantic League president Rick White said. “We are excited to see that showcase grow exponentially, while working with MLB on initiatives critical to the future of the game.”

MLB will analyze the effects of changes before deciding on potential additional modifications during the 2019 Atlantic League All-Star break and in future seasons.