Major League Baseball Friday announced the format of a 20-second pitch timer that will be used during Spring Training games beginning Saturday.
The pitch timer will be introduced in three phases:
In the first Spring Training games, the 20-second timer will operate without enforcement so as to make players and umpires familiar with the new system.
Early next week, umpires will issue reminders to pitchers and hitters who violate the rule, but no ball-strike penalties will be assessed. Between innings, umpires are expected to inform the club’s field staff (manager, pitching coach or hitting coach) of any violations.
Later in Spring Training, and depending on the status of the negotiations with the Major League Baseball Players Association, umpires will be instructed to begin assessing ball-strike penalties for violations.
No decision has been made on whether the timer will be used in regular season games.
Like the rule in Minor League Baseball, the rule requires:
(i) the batter to be in the batter’s box and alert to the pitcher with at least five seconds remaining on the timer;
(ii) the pitcher to begin his windup or motion to come to a set position before the 20-second timer expires (the pitch itself does not need to be thrown before the expiration of the timer).
The timer will never be used on the first pitch of any at-bat and will begin running prior to the second pitch when the pitcher receives the ball from the catcher.