Major League Baseball plans to test a radical extra-inning rule-change proposal in the lower minor leagues this season, Yahoo Sports reported Wednesday.
The rule change calls for a runner to be automatic placed at second base at the start of extra innings. That would be a major departure from baseball tradition, although sources told Yahoo Sports, the proposal has considerable support.
International baseball has used a similar rule for nearly a decade, and it will be used in the World Baseball Classic this spring. A similar rule is used in women's collegiate softball.
Major League Baseball plans to test the rule in rookie-level Gulf Coast League and Arizona League this summer. Those games will be monitored to determined what impact the rule has on the game and whether it would make sense to implement it at the major league level.
"Let's see what it looks like," said Joe Torre, MLB's Chief Baseball Officer, told Yahoo Sports. "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.
"It's baseball. I'm just trying to get back to that, where this is the game that people come to watch. It doesn't mean you're going to score. You're just trying to play baseball."
Details of the rule have not been finalized, but it apparently will go into effect in the 10th inning of a game. In that inning, and any subsequent innings, a runner would be placed on second base before the first batter of the inning comes to the plate.
It is an attempt to create a more exciting game by increasing the action and creating more options for the team at bat. The most obvious strategic issue would be whether the first batter of the inning should try to bunt the runner to third.
"What really initiated it is sitting in the dugout in the 15th inning and realizing everybody is going to the plate trying to hit a home run and everyone is trying to end the game themselves," Torre said. "I don't know what inning is the right inning. Maybe the 11th or 12th inning. But there are a number of reasons."
Even if the testing in the minors is deemed a success, it would probably take several years for such a radical change to be used in the majors.