MLB adds Shohei Ohtani rule to universal DH

Shohei Ohtani was the story of the 2021 season, so much so that his presence is about to be felt in the MLB rulebook.

MLB and the MLB Players Association have reached an agreement on a number of rule changes following the new collective bargaining agreement, Yahoo Sports' Hannah Keyser confirmed Tuesday. Among them is a tweak to the universal designated hitter that will undoubtedly be known as the "Shohei Ohtani rule."

Under the new rule, if a team has its starting pitcher in its lineup as the DH and pulls him during the game, the player can remain in the batting order even after he leaves the mound. So if Ohtani were to pitch six innings, he could still hit for the final three innings plus extras.

The rule will stay for the entire life of the recently agreed-upon CBA, which figures to encourage teams to invest more into two-way players like Ohtani. Under the old system, teams were disincentivized from having a pitcher hit because it would mean burning their DH if they took him out, which is why Ohtani only has 65 career plate appearances, all last year, while working as a pitcher. Now, he'll be free to hit as much as the Angels want him to.

Los Angeles Angels' Shohei Ohtani (17) in the dugout before a baseball game against the Texas Rangers in Anaheim, Calif., Saturday, Sept. 4, 2021. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)
Shohei Ohtani should see the batter's box even more often in 2022. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

MLB bringing extra-innings ghost runner back

In addition to the Ohtani rule, the league and union struck a deal on a few temporary measures for the 2022 season.

Some purists will be disappointed to hear that MLB bringing back its "ghost runner" rule, with extra innings beginning with a runner on second for the regular season. The rule will continue through the 2022 regular season, but the playoffs will see a return to normalcy like last year's postseason.

The league is also expanding its roster size from 26 players to 28 for the entire month of April, as a way to compensate for a shortened spring training. There will be no limit on the amount of pitchers allowed on the roster, which should be welcome news for teams trying to get their pitchers up to speed.

The agreement still needs to be approved by a majority of MLB's owners, which is expected to happen.