NEW YORK – Major League Baseball is slowly addressing the lagging pace of games.
MLB and the players' association announced an agreement Friday to enforce the rule requiring a hitter to keep at least one foot in the batter's box in many cases. MLB also will post stadium clocks timing pitching changes and between-inning breaks starting in spring training, and it no longer will require managers to always come onto the field when they request video reviews by umpires.
But the sides limited penalties to warnings and fines, not automatic balls and strikes. The fines don't start until May and are capped at $500 per offense.
Many of the more radical ideas experimented with during the Arizona Fall League were not adopted, such as a 20-second clock between pitches, a limitation of pitcher's mound conferences involving catchers and managers, and no-pitch intentional walks.
Still, even the modest changes are too much for players, used to their routines and reluctant to alter them.
"If you rush a hamburger, it's not going to be completely done. There are going to be too many mistakes. You're going to rush the game. It would just be terrible. I don't think there needs to be a time limit," Marlins pitcher Mat Latos said.
Said White Sox outfielder Adam Eaton: "I'm not a big fan. There's a lot of thinking involved. When a pitcher steps on the rubber, there's a lot going on. There's thinking in the dugout, the coaches, everyone. Why speed that up?"
Baseball has been contemplating the issue for nearly a decade. In February 2005, the batter's box rule was announced as an experiment in the minor leagues.
Still, the average time of nine-inning games as increased to a record 3 hours, 2 minutes last year, up from 2:33 in 1981.
MLB cannot make unilateral changes to playing rules without the consent of the players' union unless it gives one year prior notice, so an agreement was necessary for any 2015 alterations. The World Umpires Association also approved.
"We're confident that today's announcements will have a positive impact on the pace of the game without jeopardizing the integrity of the competition," union head Tony Clark said in a statement.
The pitch clock will be used in the minor leagues at Class AA and AAA, where union approval isn't needed.