New MLB rules: Pitching change a must for 7th mound visit
By JANIE McCAULEY
GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) Managers or coaches must make a pitching change if they head to the mound for the seventh time in a game under baseball's new pace of play rules.
Commissioner Rob Manfred and executive Joe Torre explained some of the parameters Tuesday, one day after MLB imposed stricter limits on mound visits in an effort to speed up games.
"I don't see pace of games issues as harsh or not harsh," Manfred said during his annual visit to the Cactus League. "I see them as a fan friendly issue."
Torre noted that umpires will keep players from proceeding to see the pitcher if six mound visits have already occurred.
"From our perspective it's important to go back to, first, principles. On pace of game, I think the first and most important principle is that pace of game is a fan issue," Manfred said. "Our research tells us that it's a fan issue, our broadcast partners tell us that it's a fan issue, and the independent research that our broadcast partners do confirm with that, that it's a fan issue.
"Because it's a fan issue at the end of the day, I hope it's an issue that you will be able to find common ground with all the constituents in the game moving forward, because it is after all the fans that makes the engine known as Major League Baseball run."
MLB has the right to institute rules changes absent an agreement with one year notice and made proposals during the 2016-17 offseason for a pitch clock and more restrictions on mound visits.
Giants catcher Buster Posey noted that it's the players' jobs to move forward as the game adapts, whether they like the decisions or not.
"I actually was listening to John Smoltz talk about it and I agree with what he was saying. He says as baseball players you adjust," Posey said last week. "No matter what it is, you adjust. I think it might affect a few people, but they'll adjust. If it affects me, I'll adjust. I don't foresee it being an issue. For me personally, baseball being my job, my job's to go out and perform with what I have. That's kind of the way I approach it. I think ultimately though if you're looking at it from a fan's perspective, you want to put a product on the field that they're going to enjoy the most."
Cubs manager Joe Maddon joked of having a coach keep track of the mound visit similar to the way an assistant basketball coach tracks timeouts, saying "maybe there's going to be seven on the scoreboard like the number of timeouts in a game."
"Our numbers suggest that we were a little over four, something like that," Oakland manager Bob Melvin said. "You're just going to have to have an awareness. You're going to have to deal with it. A month or two for now maybe it's a non-issue at some point. There's no sense in fighting it, being combative about it. Just figure out a way to try to make it part of your routine because it's a very routine sport."
Regarding slow-moving free agency, Manfred said MLB is pleased to see more signings in recent days.
"At the end of the day we want players signed, we want the best players playing the game," he said. "It's always our goal."
AP Sports Writer Bob Baum contributed to this report.
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Updated February 20, 2018