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Inside the new MLB rules for 2020

Taxi squads, runner on 2B in extra innings, and more

MLB: Spring Training-Cleveland Indians at Los Angeles Angels Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

With players reporting to a new spring training — MLB is calling it “summer camp” now — this week, and first workouts as early as Friday, let’s take a look of the new rules in place for the 2020 season.

The most relevant change to the Angels is that there will be no limit on how many pitchers a team may carry on their roster in 2020. Previously, the 26-man roster could include a maximum of 13 pitchers, not counting two-way players. But the only player in the majors to qualify this year as a two-way player is Shohei Ohtani, which could have given the Angels an advantage in that they could carry a 14th pitcher if they so chose.

The 60-game season will begin on either July 23 or 24, depending on the team. The full schedule hasn’t yet been announced.

Here’s a summary of the other rule changes for this year:

  • To cut down on long extra-inning game, each inning after the ninth inning will begin with a runner on second base and nobody out. The runner will be the player who made the last out of the previous inning, and for scoring purposes will count as having reached base on an error, though no error will be charged to a player or team. Of the 208 extra-inning games in the majors last season, 117 (56.3 percent) lasted longer than 10 innings. In 2018-19, when this rule was in effect in Double-A and Triple-A, a game lasted longer than 10 innings only 27 percent of the time, per MiLB PR.
  • No limits on position players pitching. A change that was originally set to begin this year was only allowing position players pitching after the ninth inning or in games with a margin of six or more runs.
  • During spring training/summer camp, teams can only schedule up to three games with other teams. The rest of the action will be limited to workouts and intrasquad battles.
  • Teams are allowed to carry 30 players for the first two weeks of the season, then 28 players for the next two weeks, and back to 26 players for the remainder of the regular season.
  • Once active rosters are back to 26 players, teams are allowed to carry a 27th player should they play a doubleheader.
  • For road trips, teams can bring a taxi squad of up to three players, one of whom must be a catcher. While on the taxi squad, players will be paid at their minor league rate, and will receive major league meal money ($108.50 daily) for each day on the road.
  • August 31 is the new trading deadline (moved from July 31), and players must be added by September 15 to be eligible for the postseason (moved from August 31).
  • The injured list is back to 10 days for all players (pitchers were originally going to have a 15-day injured list minimum beginning this season), and the 60-day IL is reduced to 45 days. There is also a Covid-19 related IL, which has no minimum or maximum length, in which a player would not count against active roster or club player pool limits. To be activated off the Covid-19 IL, a player must satisfy a number of criteria, including two negative coronavirus tests at least 24 hours apart.
  • Spitting is prohibited, including sunflower seeds, peanut shells and tobacco, which seems impossible to enforce. But chewing gum is okay.
  • Pitchers are not allowed to lick their fingers, but can carry a wet rag in their back pocket for moisture while on the mound.
  • Players and coaches will be physically distant whenever possible, including expanded spacing in dugouts and bullpens, and maybe even players sitting in the stands.
  • Lineup cards will no longer be exchanged at home plate before each game. Instead, both teams will upload their lineup into a mobile app provided by MLB.
  • In an effort to maintain physical distancing, MLB plans to crack down on what they are calling unsportsmanlike conduct, limiting arguments between teams, or between players, coaches, and umpires: “Players or managers who leave their positions to argue with umpires, come within six feet of an umpire or opposing player or manager for the purpose of argument, or engage in altercations on the field are subject to immediate ejection and discipline, including fines and suspensions.”
  • All National League games will feature the designated hitter this season, which will be relevant to the Angels for their 10 road games against the NL West.
  • The three-batter minimum for relief pitchers, instituted this season, remains. Any reliever must face at least three batters unless he completes a half-inning or is injured.