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PERSPECTIVE

Here's your guide to baseball's rules changes for the 2020 season

Baseball in 2020 will be a different, more socially-distanced game than it was in 2018 when the umpires huddled before a Washington Nationals game.

STARS AND STRIPES

By GENE WANG | The Washington Post | Published: July 20, 2020

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When Major League Baseball and its players' union announced last month that a shortened 2020 season would be held, significant rules changes were included.

As Opening Day approaches this week, here is a look at some of the more notable modifications — with an eye toward health and safety, particularly given the compressed regular season — intended to help the sport navigate the novel coronavirus pandemic.

In the game

Universal designated hitter: Teams in both the National League and the American League will use a designated hitter for all games, including the playoffs.

Implementation of a universal DH is intended in part to serve as an additional precaution for starting pitchers to remain healthy.

Runner on second to start extra innings: For the regular season only, a runner will begin on second base at the start of each half-inning after a game heads to extra innings. The runner will be the player in the batting order — or a substitute for such player — immediately preceding that half-inning's leadoff hitter.

A pitcher allowing a designated runner to score will not be assessed an earned run.

MLB has been experimenting with a runner on second to start each half-inning of extra innings throughout the minor leagues since 2018.

Over two minor league seasons with the rule in place, according to data from Baseball America, 73% of extra-inning games produced a resolution after one extra inning. In the two years before the new rule, only 45% of extra-inning games were resolved after one extra inning.

Position players may pitch at any time: Before the suspension of spring training because of the coronavirus outbreak, the sport had intended to alter the rules to allow position players to pitch only if a game were in extra innings or if the player's team were ahead or behind by at least seven runs.

Resumption of unofficial games: Games that do not go five complete innings because of weather issues can be suspended and restarted from the same point at a later date.

Health and Safety

No spitting: For obvious reasons.

Physical distancing: Players and managers are to remain an appropriate distance from umpires and the opposing team whenever possible.

Players or managers who come within six feet of an umpire or opposing player to argue or to engage in an altercation are subject to ejection and subsequent discipline by MLB, without regard for the truncated schedule.

Players on opposite teams should not socialize or come within six feet of one another before the game, during warmups, in between innings or after games.

Equipment: Hitters must use their own pine tar, bat doughnuts and other accessories in the on-deck circle. They also must retrieve their own caps, gloves and sunglasses from the dugout if an inning ends with them on base.

Pitchers are required to bring their own rosin bag to the mound and use baseballs exclusive to them for bullpen sessions. They are not permitted to lick their fingers, but they may bring a wet rag to the pitching rubber to moisten their fingers.

Any baseball that is put in play and touched by multiple players will be removed and exchanged for a new ball. After an out, players are discouraged from throwing the ball around the infield.

Batting practice baseballs are to be used for one day only; they must then be cleaned, sanitized and stored for at least five days.

Roster size: Teams will be permitted to carry 30 players for the first two weeks of the regular season but must trim their active roster to 28 after two weeks and to 26 two weeks after that. Active rosters will then be capped at 26 players through the end of the regular season and postseason.

Injured lists: Players placed on the injured list will be inactive for a minimum of 10 days, a revision of a rule change implemented before the originally scheduled season that would have required injured pitchers to be inactive for at least 15 days. The 60-day injured list is now the 45-day injured list. There will be a separate injured list for players who test positive for the coronavirus or are confirmed to have been exposed to somebody who tested positive. There is no minimum or maximum stay on that list. A player must be on the active roster by Sept. 15 to be eligible to participate in the postseason.
 

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