Major League Baseball, in its ongoing effort to address the sluggish pace of games, intends to test a rule change in the minor leagues this season that would put a runner on second base to start extra innings, Yahoo Sports reported Wednesday.
The test would take place this summer in the Gulf Coast and Arizona Leagues, the lowest levels of the minors, with the purpose of gaining a greater understanding of the effects of the change. The rule -- an offshoot of which is already being used in international play -- would apply to every inning from the 10th inning on.
One obvious effect would be an increased likelihood of scoring in extra innings, resulting in (hopefully) shorter games and fewer bullpen-destroying marathons that last five hours and beyond. From Yahoo:
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"Let's see what it looks like," said Joe Torre, the longtime major league manager who's now MLB's Chief Baseball Officer and a strong proponent of the testing. "It's not fun to watch when you go through your whole pitching staff and wind up bringing a utility infielder in to pitch. As much as it's nice to talk about being at an 18-inning game, it takes time."
The move would have many interesting strategic side effects. For one, it would give a decided advantage to a home team that gets out of the top half of an extra inning unscathed. Their leadoff hitter could opt to bunt in an attempt to move the winning run to third with less than two outs, and a sacrifice fly or any hit would then win the game. There's also the matter of who that runner on second would be. Would it be the next batter due up, or a pinch runner at a manager's discretion? The Yahoo report didn't specify how that would work and said that details of the rule were not yet final.
Even if this rule is a success in the minor leagues -- MLB's standard proving ground for potential rule changes -- it would "likely take years" for us to see this being implemented in the majors, the report said.
Also this week, MLB proposed to do away with the intentional walk, in another effort to speed up games.