Playing with the designated hitter in the National League and starting extra innings with a runner on second base to potentially speed up games were among the rules for the 2020 season announced by Major League Baseball on Monday.
The 60-game season also features a number of rules designed to keep players, coaches and umpires safe amid the continuing coronavirus pandemic, which is worsening in some regions where baseball is played. The season was scheduled to start on March 25 but was delayed due to the virus.
The MLB rules also prohibit unsportsmanlike conduct and require physical distancing when possible.
In addition, MLB installed these rules and made other recommendations:
–All spitting, including sunflower seeds and peanut shells, is prohibited on the field and in team facilities.
–Pitchers can keep a small wet cloth in their pants pocket for moisture instead of licking their fingers.
–Managers will not exchange lineup cards at home plate, instead entering them into an MLB app.
–Teams must expand dugout and bullpen areas.
–All on-field personnel should physically distance as play allows. For example, when the ball is out of play, fielders should step away from runners on base. Also, catchers can move toward the mound to give signals so as to provide distance from the batter in the box.
–Players should not socialize or come within six feet of members of the opposing team before the game, on the field or after the game.
MLB confirmed that a previously announced rule requiring all pitchers to face at least three batters except in case of injury will remain in effect for 2020. A rule that was under consideration that would have allowed position players to pitch only under specified circumstances will not be implemented.
MLB also said teams may schedule as many as three exhibition games against their Opening Day opponent before the season begins July 23 or 24.
Teams will play 40 divisional games and 20 regional interleague games on the season. The trade deadline will be Aug. 31, and postseason rosters must be set by Sept. 15.