As MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has looked to innovate and improve pace of play, Rookie-Level leagues and Spring Training have been used as testing grounds over recent years for new rules and changes.
Perhaps most famously was in 2017, when MLB implemented a rule for placing a runner on second base when Gulf Coast League and Arizona League games went into extra innings. That was met with plenty of pushback, and though is now used at Double-A and Triple-A is unlikely to reach the Major League level.
Starting last season, Double-A and Triple-A saw a 15-second pitch clock implemented when runners were not on base. Pitchers in the Grapefruit League and Cactus League will now face a similar restriction, as Manfred announced all Spring Training games will include a 20-second pitch clock, per Gabe Lacques of USA TODAY Sports”
Manfred announced that a 20-second pitch clock will be ready to roll for spring training games, as MLB “will get ready for the possibility of seeing a pitch clock by opening day,” he said. “The only prudent course for us is to be in a position to proceed — hopefully under our collectively bargained conditions.”
The possibility of implementing such a tool was among the topics the league and Players Association recently discussed. Manfred holds the power to unilaterally impose a pitch clock, but has stated a preference to come to an agreement with the union.
This marks yet another instance in which Manfred has used a clock in effort to improve pace of play. After testing a between-innings timer in the Arizona Fall League, it was enforced for all games in the Majors, beginning with the 2015 season. That coincided with a 20-second pitch clock (with runners on base) for Minor League games.
Last season, MLB refined the replay process and put a limit on non-pitching change mound visits.