MLB Testing Experimental Rules In Atlantic League, Including Designated Pinch-Runner
MLB: Spring Training-Boston Red Sox Workouts
Feb 15, 2023; Fort Myers, FL, USA; a general view of JetBlue Park during spring training workouts at Fenway South Player Development Complex. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Major League Baseball announced two experimental playing rules that will be tested during the 2023 Atlantic League (ALPB) Championship Season that began with its Opening Day on Friday.

Among the additions is the use of a designated pinch-runner. Each team will list a player who is not in the lineup as a designated pinch-runner, and that player may then be substituted at any point into the game as a baserunner.

The player who is substituted for, as well as the pinch-runner, will be permitted to return to the game without penalty.

What’s more, the Atlantic League allows pitchers only one disengagement per plate appearance in 2023. That’s in contrast to the new MLB rule which allows a pitcher to disengage from the rubber twice during a plate appearance before possibly facing a penalty.

The Atlantic League became MLB’s first partner league in 2019, and in the years since, has tested numerous rules such as an automated strike zone, three-batter minimum for pitchers, bigger bases and defensive shift restrictions, among others.

In addition to the aforementioned changes, the double-hook DH rule returned to the Atlantic League for the 2023 season. This allows clubs to use the designated hitter throughout the game provided that the team’s starting pitcher has completed at least five innings.

If the starter fails to make it through the fifth, the club will lose the DH for the remainder of the game.

“We thank the Atlantic League for their continued partnership,” MLB executive vice president of baseball operations Morgan Sword said in a statement.

“In recent years, the ALPB’s experimental rules have aimed to emphasize athleticism, improved pace of play and other means of giving fans the game they want to see. We are excited for another great season of Atlantic League baseball and the entertainment that it will bring to fans.”

MLB testing experimental baseball in Double-A

At the Double-A level, MLB is testing a baseball to aid with the grip on it without the use of sticky substances. However, the early results have not been encouraging.

The ball has a tacky surface to help pitchers grip it better, but it has led to an increased spin that makes it hard for pitchers to control and increased the movement on the pitches, making it harder for batters to make contact.

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