Major League Baseball made official its rule changes for the 2020 season on Wednesday, implementing a three-batter minimum for any pitcher and an expanded regular-season roster.
The new pitching rule is the major change, designed to speed up the game by eliminating some pitching changes. Any starter or reliever must face three batters, or pitch until the inning is over, before coming out of the game.
This will, for example, effect the usage of a left-handed specialist out of the bullpen, often brought in to face a left-handed batter before another pitching change. An exception to the three-batter rule is if the pitcher is injured or ill; he could be taken out with the approval of the umpires’ crew chief.
The three-batter rule goes into effect during spring training on March 12.
—Roster limits: The active roster through Aug. 31 is increased from 25 to 26, with teams able to carry a maximum of 13 pitchers. All teams must carry 28 players — maximum of 14 pitchers — from Sept. 1 through the end of the regular season. Previously, teams could bring up anybody on the their 40-man roster in September, often carrying 30-plus players. Postseason rosters are set at 26.
—Two-way players: These players may pitch without counting toward the pitching roster limits. Such players must accrue at least 20 innings pitched in the majors and start at least 20 games as a position player/designated hitter with at least three plate appearances in those games. Stats from 2019 and 2018 can be used to designate such players. This helps address the status of the Anaheim Angels’ starter/designated hitter Shohei Ohtani and Cincinnati Reds’ reliever/outfielder Michael Lorenzen.
—Position players pitching: A position player may pitch only in extra innings or if his team is losing or winning by more than six runs.
—Extra player rule: Teams previously could call up a 26th player for special circumstances — mostly because of a doubleheader. They can still do so, temporarily expanding their roster to 27.
—Injured list: Pitchers and two-way players must now spend 15 days on the injured list. The reinstatement period for position players remains at 10 days.
—Option period: Pitchers optioned to the minor leagues must stay there for 15 days, rather than 10, which is still the minimum for position players.
—Challenge time: Managers have only 20 seconds to challenge a play instead of 30.