MLB to test out speed-up rules

NEW YORK -- Teams will be limited to three trips to the mound by managers, coaches and catchers during a game, except for pitching changes, under experimental speed-up rules to be used during the Arizona Fall League.

The pace of game committee established last month by baseball commissioner Bud Selig announced a series of initiatives Wednesday that will be tried in the AFL, which opens Oct. 7 and runs until Nov. 15. The three-trip limit will apply even if a game goes to extra innings.

The average time of nine-inning games in the major leagues was a record 3 hours, 2 minutes this year, up from 2:33 in 1981.

Pitches will be eliminated during intentional walks, and a hitter will be required to keep at least one foot in the batter's box throughout each at-bat unless there is a foul ball, wild pitch or passed ball -- or if a pitch forces him out or the umpire grants "time."

In games at Salt River Fields, a 20-second clock will be posted in each dugout, behind home plate and in the outfield to prevent pitchers from taking too much time. If a batter steps out of the box during the 20-second period that ends with the start of the pitching motion, the pitcher can throw. The umpire may call a strike if the batter has not been granted time. The clock will start when the pitcher has the ball or, after a foul, when the umpire signals "play."

Normally, rule 8.04 says a pitcher should pitch within 12 seconds of receiving the ball when the bases are empty, and umpires may call a ball for a violation. But that rule is rarely enforced.

Hitters will be directed to get in the batter's box by the 1:45 mark of the 2:05 break between innings, and violations may be punished by strike calls. The maximum time for a pitching change will be 2:30, including changes before the start of an inning.

In addition, the MLB video-review system that started this year will be in use and will include experimental rules regarding scope, initiation and time limits.