Classic announces pitch limits, mercy rules

NEW YORK -- The World Baseball Classic set its pitch limits and mercy rules Thursday, designed to protect pitchers in the early stages of spring training and cut short one-sided games.

Pitchers in the first round of games, scheduled from March 3-10, will be limited to 65 pitches. The amount rises to 80 pitches for the second round, set for March 12-16, and 95 for the semifinals on March 18 and the championship March 20.

A 30-pitch outing must be followed by one day off, and a 50-pitch outing must be followed by four days off. No one will be allowed to pitch on three consecutive days.

Pitchers who reach the limit will be allowed to complete the current plate appearance. The usual rule that a starting pitcher must throw at least five innings to get credit for a win will be waived.

All games will use designated hitters. Games will be stopped after five innings when a team is ahead by 15 or more runs and after seven innings when a team is ahead by at least 10 runs. A game can be stopped in the middle of an inning if a team reaches the threshold.

Limits were also set on players in the tournament from any major-league team: 14 from an organization and 10 from its active 25-man
roster or disabled list last Aug. 31. A major-league team is allowed to waive the limit for its players. The tournament organizers -- the commissioner's office and the players' association -- may also block "players whose participation would otherwise impose an undue hardship" on their major-league team. The rules gave the examples of "too many starting pitchers, too many catchers."

The 16 teams in the WBC must submit final 30-man rosters five days before their openers. Teams can replace disabled players from names on their preliminary 60-man rosters, but only for following rounds.

The tiebreakers in the standings used for advancement will be head-to-head record, followed by fewest runs allowed per inning, fewest earned runs allowed per inning, highest batting average in head-to-head games and a drawing of lots. The tiebreakers are based on International Baseball Federation rules.

The WBC also stated its previously discussed rules on eligibility. A player can represent a country if he is a citizen, qualifies for citizenship, holds a passport or is qualified to hold a passport, is a legal resident, was born in the country, has a parent who is or was a citizen and has a parent who was born there.