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Major League Baseball focuses on pace of game efforts
05/21/2008 4:56 PM ET
Following a discussion on pace of game at last week's Owners Meetings in Milwaukee, Major League Baseball today held a series of conference calls with each Club's field manager, general manager and in-game entertainment staff and with all Major League umpire crew chiefs. The calls were organized by MLB's Baseball Operations Department, headed by Executive Vice President Jimmie Lee Solomon.

During the calls, Major League Baseball advised all participants that umpires will be more vigilant in the enforcement of matters pertaining to the improvement of pace of game efforts, including, but not limited to, Official Baseball Rules 6.02(a), 6.02(b), 6.02(c) and 8.04.

"Improving pace of game is an important goal that will be emphasized," said Baseball Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig. "Clubs and fans share the common objective of seeing a game that is played as sharply and crisply as possible. We have reminded our staff and our umpires to enforce the rules in order to achieve the progress we need in this area."

Regarding Rule 6.02, umpires have been asked to:

• Actively call the batter to approach home plate from the on-deck circle and enter the batter's box.
• Not grant "time" to a batter who asks for time once the pitcher has begun his delivery. If the batter leaves the batter's box without time and the pitcher delivers a pitch, the umpire will call the pitch as if the batter had not left the box.
• Warn a batter who is lingering outside the batter's box to return to the box. If the batter refuses to enter the box, the umpire will issue an automatic strike to the batter without a pitch having to be delivered.

Regarding Rule 8.04, umpires have been asked to:

• Actively encourage the pitcher to take his position on the pitching rubber.
• Warn a pitcher for his first violation of the 12-second time limit.
• Issue the pitcher a "ball" for each subsequent violation of the 12-second time limit.

In addition to the reinforcement of the Official Baseball Rules, other measures that will be actively encouraged by the umpires include the following:

• Conferences on the pitcher's mound will be broken up more quickly, especially when the visitor is not prompt to the mound.
• Pitchers coming from the dugout should arrive at the mound between half-innings so that they can complete their eight warm-up pitches in conjunction with the resumption of play promptly at the appropriate time after the half-inning breaks.
• Pitchers entering from the bullpen should leave the bullpen immediately after being signaled into the game and should arrive at the mound in time to complete their eight warm-up pitchers in conjunction with the resumption of play promptly at the appropriate time after the half-inning breaks.
• Each Club will be directed to have a reserve player or coach available between half-innings to warm up the pitcher when the active catcher is putting on his equipment.
• Batboys will be directed to have a second bat readily available in the event that a hitter's bat breaks.

Umpires also will be charged with reporting all Clubs that fail to observe MLB regulations regarding in-game entertainment, public address announcements and the playing of music and video presentations.

Clubs will be subject to fines for repeated violations of these requirements.

The text of Official Baseball Rules 6.02 and 8.04 follows:

OFFICIAL BASEBALL RULE 6.02:

(a) The batter shall take his position in the batter's box promptly when it is his time at bat.
(b) The batter shall not leave his position in the batter's box after the pitcher comes to Set Position, or starts his windup.

PENALTY: If the pitcher pitches, the umpire shall call "Ball" or "Strike," as the case may be.

Rule 6.02(b) Comment: The batter leaves the batter's box at the risk of having a strike delivered and called, unless he requests the umpire to call "Time." The batter is not at liberty to step in and out of the batter's box at will. Once a batter has taken his position in the batter's box, he shall not be permitted to step out of the batter's box in order to use the resin or the pine tar rag, unless there is a delay in the game action or, in the judgment of the umpires, weather conditions warrant an exception.

Umpires will not call "Time" at the request of the batter or any member of his team once the pitcher has started his windup or has come to a set position even though the batter claims "dust in his eyes," "steamed glasses," "didn't get the sign" or for any other cause.

Umpires may grant a hitter's request for "Time" once he is in the batter's box, but the umpire should eliminate hitters walking out of the batter's box without reason. If umpires are not lenient, batters will understand that they are in the batter's box and they must remain there until the ball is pitched. See Rule 6.02(d). The following two paragraphs are additional material for Rule 6.02(b) Comment, for Major League play only:

If pitcher delays once the batter is in his box and the umpire feels that the delay is not justified he may allow the batter to step out of the box momentarily. If after the pitcher starts his windup or comes to a "set position" with a runner on, he does not go through with his pitch because the batter has stepped out of the box, it shall not be called a balk. Both the pitcher and batter have violated a rule and the umpire shall call time and both the batter and pitcher start over from "scratch."

(c) If the batter refuses to take his position in the batter's box during his time at bat, the umpire shall call a strike on the batter. The ball is dead, and no runners may advance. After the penalty, the batter may take his proper position and the regular ball and strike count shall continue. If the batter does not take his proper position before three strikes have been called, the batter shall be declared out.

Rule 6.02(c) Comment: The umpire shall give the batter a reasonable opportunity to take his proper position in the batter's box after the umpire has called a strike pursuant to Rule 6.02(c) and before the umpire calls a successive strike pursuant to Rule 6.02(c).

OFFICIAL BASEBALL RULE 8.04:

When the bases are unoccupied, the pitcher shall deliver the ball to the batter within 12 seconds after he receives the ball. Each time the pitcher delays the game by violating this rule, the umpire shall call "Ball."

The 12-second timing starts when the pitcher is in possession of the ball and the batter is in the box, alert to the pitcher. The timing stops when the pitcher releases the ball.

The intent of this rule is to avoid unnecessary delays. The umpire shall insist that the catcher return the ball promptly to the pitcher, and that the pitcher take his position on the rubber promptly. Obvious delay by the pitcher should instantly be penalized by the umpire.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


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