Early a year ago, Manfred threatened the idea that the MLB Players Association may not have a say in the pace of play changes for 2018, as the commissioner had the power to impose them unilaterally, without their agreement. With over two minutes between innings and at every pitching change, the league has almost 40 minutes of dead time to work with in each game that does not require the intrinsic rules of the game to be fiddled with each year.
The most noticeable change will be a limitation on mound visits by managers, coaches and players to six per game, not including visits to change pitchers. Teams will receive an additional mound visit if the game goes into extra innings. For the goal of this rule, the definition of a "mound visit" includes catchers and position players visiting the mound, not just pitching coaches or the manager.
In a ideal world, spring training is the best place to work out any kinks with a rule change, but it's not going to happen in Florida or Arizona. Now we've got people being accused of sitting in a tunnel [trying to steal signs].
Major League Baseball clarified those six mound visits wouldn't include pitching changes, per its statement about the new rules. A pitcher must throw his last warmup pitch, and a batter must leave the on-deck circle, with 20 seconds left on the between-innings clock.
When the clock gets to zero, the pitcher must begin his motion for his first pitch of the inning. The rules, which will be implemented in time for spring training games, do not include a between-batter timer.
"The players, we want faster games, too, " said Orioles union representatives Darren O'Day, "so maybe it'll be a little reminder to eliminate some of that dead time". Other than announcing there will not be any ball or strike penalties for violating these rules, Major League Baseball vaguely announced violators will be subject to "progressive discipline". "If a video guy can steal your signs and figure out pitch sequences then that's what they are going to do", Keuchel said. There will be no pitch clock in 2018, but there will be a limit on mound visits.
25 seconds remaining: Umpire signals to the pitcher to complete final warm-up pitch. That's five more minutes to do literally anything else.
If teams accidentally (or purposely) go to the mound a seventh time?
Teams won't be penalized for a mound visit if a pitcher might be injured, or after an offensive substitution.
There will be no automatic ball/strike penalties for timer violations. Repeat offenders will be hit with larger and larger fines. There had been talk of charging the pitcher with an automatic ball if he wasn't ready to deliver the pitch when the timer runs out, and charging the batter with an automatic strike if he wasn't in the box when the timer runs out. But I do hope we can improve the pace and make it work. No, it won't fix everything that is wrong with baseball, but it'll help. There won't be a pitch clock in 2018. But unless Rob Manfred suddenly ceases to be the Commissioner of Baseball, don't expect this to be the end of the conversation.