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News Navigator: What is going on with all the Major League Baseball rule changes?

Washington Nationals starting pitcher Trevor Williams (32) winds up to throw as the pitch clock runs during the fourth inning of a spring training baseball game against the Miami Marlins, on March 18, 2023, in West Palm Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, File)

The Mainichi Shimbun answers some common questions readers may have about Major League Baseball's major rule changes for the 2023 season.

    Question: Following a thrilling World Baseball Classic, the Major League Baseball (MLB) season is set to start on March 30 (March 31 Japan time). I've heard there are going to be some new rules introduced for 2023 that would impact Los Angeles Angels superstar Shohei Ohtani. Is that true?

    Answer: Indeed it is. For one, pitchers like Ohtani will have only a certain number of seconds between pitches, timed by a "pitch clock." If a pitcher doesn't throw their next pitch within that time, then the batter will be given an automatic ball. There is also a new limit on how many times a pitcher can throw over to a base to keep an opposing baserunner from trying to steal. If a pitcher throws over three times without picking off the runner, then a balk is called and the runner is awarded the next base.

    Q: How long is the pitch clock?

    A: It's 15 seconds when the bases are empty, and 20 with runners on. The clock is set up so that it can be seen easily from the pitcher's mound. But it isn't just for the pitcher. If the batter isn't ready for the next pitch with eight seconds left on the clock, such as by stepping out of the batter's box, or violates any other rules, they get an automatic strike.

    Q: That's pretty harsh. Why is MLB putting in these new rules?

    A: Three words: Pace of play. MLB is worried about the sport losing fans, and one of the main causes cited for this declining popularity is that the average game time has swelled to more than three hours. MLB needed to do something to make the games easier to watch.

    Q: Are these new rules being introduced in Japanese baseball as well?

    A: The popular drift away from baseball is a problem for the sport everywhere, at both the pro and amateur levels. Japan's amateur Industrial League has implemented a set of special "speed-up" rules. Partly based on MLB's moves, Industrial League pitchers now have a limited number of pick-off moves, and must enter their windup within a set amount of time after getting the ball back. The league is also experimenting with a seven-inning format this season.

    (Japanese original by Hiroyuki Asatsuma, Sports News Department)

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