MLB: Three batter minimums and new roster limits coming in time for 2020 season


WASHINGTON, DC – OCTOBER 14: John Brebbia #60 of the St. Louis Cardinals gives the ball to manager Mike Shildt #8 after being relieved in the sixth inning of game three of the National League Championship Series against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on October 14, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

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ST.LOUIS, MO- With Major League Baseball spring training camps opening for business this week, the commissioner’s office has confirmed that several anticipated rule changes will take effect this season. Among them:

  • Three Batter Minimums: Pitchers must face at least three batters until they are put out, reach a base or the inning is retired. The umpiring crew chief has the discretion to allow for a substitute pitcher in case of injury.


  • Roster Size: Roster limits will rise from 25 to 26, except during the month of September and during the postseason. That’s one reason the Cardinals are seriously considering the idea of carrying three catchers this year.  During that same period, teams can not carry more than 13 pitchers. In September, active rosters expand to 28 players, with a maximum of 14 pitchers.


  • Two-Way Players: You might call this the Shohei Ohtani rule. According to the Commissioner’s Office, “players who qualify as “Two-Way Players” may appear as pitchers during a game without counting toward a Clubs’ pitcher limitations. A player will qualify as a “Two-Way Player” only if he accrues both: (i) at least 20 Major League innings pitched; and (ii) at least 20 Major League games started (as a position player or designated hitter) with at least three plate appearances in each of those games, in either the current Championship Season or the prior Championship Season (for 2020 only, this will include 2019 as well as 2018).  The Club must designate that player as a “Two-Way Player” in advance of that game. Once a Club designates a qualified “Two-Way Player” that designation will remain in effect, and cannot change, for the remainder of that Championship Season and Postseason.”


  • Position Players Who Pitch: Position players who pitch will only be able to enter games after the ninth inning, or in a game with a six-run difference.


  • Tick-Tock: Managers will now have 20 seconds to challenge a play, down from 30.


Wednesday’s announcement is not related to the leak of tweaks being considered for baseball’s postseason format, which would add two Wild Card teams to each league’s postseason play. Those tweaks would need to be approved by players through collective bargaining and are at least two seasons away from taking place.


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