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MLB imposes change to balk rule

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Major League Baseball is imposing a rule that pitchers who fake a throw to third base and then throw to another base will be charged with a balk, according to the New York Times.

The rule change takes effect this season.

Pitchers have been doing it for many years in an attempt to throw off base runners, but it rarely works. Now, pitchers can no longer do it without being called for a balk.

"It's funny," umpire Ted Barrett said. "When they presented it to us at our meetings, nobody even said, 'Why?' "

Former relief pitcher Jeff Nelson, now an MLB.com contributor, said: "The managers say it's all about speeding up the game. I think now, the runner at first might get a little bit of an advantage. All it's used for is to keep the runner at first close. I might have done it 100 times and gotten two guys on it."

Former manager Joe Torre, now an executive vice president in the commissioner's office, said there was plenty of support to change the rule.

"A large majority of the managers, I mean really a good amount, wanted to eliminate it," he said. "So we presented it.

"To me, it's been inconsistent because sometimes it's called a balk and sometimes it isn't. Obviously, it gets a little disjointed that way. Just my experience, added to what they want, I made a case for it. The feeling was, you're deceiving the runner or the hitter."

MLB proposed the change last year but the players association rejected it. The sport was able to override the union by approving it unilaterally at the owners' meetings earlier this month under the collective bargaining agreement.

"It's not a huge deal, but our guys would prefer it not be eliminated," said Michael Weiner, the union's executive director. "Some guys said: 'Look, it's part of the game. Does it work a lot? No. Does it work sometimes? Yes.' There are more traditionalists among the players than a lot of people assume. In their view, they said, 'What's the point in getting rid of it?' "

Barrett, who has been a major league umpire since 1994, said he can only remember the move working once in a game.
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