MLB makes it official: The three-batter minimum rule is here

BRONX, NY - OCTOBER 15:  Manager Aaron Boone #17 of the New York Yankees takes the ball from Adam Ottavino #0 during a pitching change during Game 3 of the ALCS between the Houston Astros and the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday, October 15, 2019 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Rob Tringali/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
MLB's new rule will limit pitching changes in 2020. (Photo by Rob Tringali/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

Major League Baseball has made official a rule change that many purists were dreading: Pitchers will have to face a minimum of three hitters before their team can make a pitching change.

The three-bat minimum had long been talked about coming to MLB this season, but the league spelled out the specifics Wednesday:

The Official Baseball Rules have been amended to require the starting or any relief pitcher to pitch to a minimum of three batters, including the batter then at bat (or any substitute batter), until such batters are put out or reach base, or until the offensive team is put out, unless the substitute pitcher sustains injury or illness which, in the umpire crew chief’s judgment, incapacitates him from further play as a pitcher. The three-batter minimum will become effective in 2020 Spring Training beginning on Thursday, March 12th.

The goal is to speed up games, as the commissioner’s office has prioritized pace of play as a major issue since Rob Manfred took over. The rule change would eliminate the job baseball fans know as the LOOGY — the left-handed-one-out-only guy, or the lefty reliever who comes into a game to get one out.

The new rules allow for that only if that batter is the final out of an inning. Otherwise relievers will have to face three batters at minimum this season and beyond.

Other MLB rule changes for 2020

The three-batter minimum is the big one here, but MLB announced other rule changes for 2020:

• Rosters are expanding from 25 to 26 players during the regular season and postseason. With that, there’s a maximum of 13 pitchers.

• R.I.P the 40-man roster. September rosters will be limited to 28 players with a maximum of 14 pitchers.

• Teams can designate “two-way players” who won’t count toward the pitcher limitations on rosters. To qualify, players need at least 20 Major League innings pitched and at least 20 Major League games started as a position player or DH with at least three plate appearances in each of those games. For the first year, player stats from 2018 and 2019 could be used.

• There are some limitations on when a position player can pitch. Now they can only pitch if their team is behind by six or more runs or if a game is in extra innings.

• Managers will now have 20 seconds instead of 30 to challenge a call on the field.

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