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Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred answers questions at a news conference Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2017, in Phoenix. (Morry Gash/AP)
Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred answers questions at a news conference Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2017, in Phoenix. (Morry Gash/AP)

Major League Baseball’s new intentional walk rule comes into effect Add to ...

Major League Baseball and the players’ association announced their agreement on pitchless intentional walks, and the change took effect with exhibition games starting Thursday.

If a manager signals the plate umpire for an intentional walk, the umpire would tell the batter to take first base.

Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred had hoped for more radical pace-of-game changes, but the union did not agree to raising the bottom of the strike zone, pitch clocks or limits on trips to the mound. MLB can make unilateral changes to playing rules only with one year advance notice.

Two other rule changes were announced Thursday. An addition to rule 5.07 formalizes an umpire interpretation and prohibits a pitcher from resetting his pivot foot or taking a second step toward home plate during his delivery. If the pitcher violates the rule with a runner on base, a balk should be called. If there are no runners, a violation should be considered an illegal pitch under rule 6.02(b).

A change to rule 5.03 requires base coaches to remain behind the line of the coach’s box closest to the plate and the front line parallel to the foul line prior to each pitch. A coach may leave the box to signal a player after a ball is put in play.

In addition, video review regulations were changed to establish a 30-second limit for a manager to make a challenge and a conditional two-minute guideline for the replay umpire to make a decision. When a manager is out of challenges, an umpire crew chief may ask for a review of a non-home run call starting in the eighth inning, one inning later than last year.

MLB also announced the prohibition of field markers to create references for positioning fielders.

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