2020 MLB Rules: Universal DH, Extra Inning Changes and More

John Healy
June 29, 2020 - 2:33 pm
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The 2020 MLB season is all set to go forward with a 60-game regular season as players are expected to report to spring training, or "summer camp," by July 1 and the regular season will begin July 23 and 24.

Not only will the length of the season be different this year, but there will be some changes on the field. On Monday, MLB officially announced what those changes will be:

Extra Innings

MLB will institute the Minor League Baseball rule for extra innings where a runner will automatically be placed on second base in order to expedite the game. Due to the tight schedule, there is a desire to avoid 15-inning games and longer and taxing the rosters.

Universal DH

The universal DH was part of the terms of the negotiations that the MLBPA rejected, but the National League will indeed still implement the designated hitter for the 2020 season under the safety and health protocols for the first time in MLB history.

Per Jon Heyman, the universal DH will likely be used this season, but not in 2021, as per the owners’ proposal that was rejected.

Division Realignment

Teams will only play against other teams within its own division and the five teams in the division of the other league. So, for example, AL East teams would play 40 games within the division and 20 games against the NL East teams.

The objective in creating the schedule this way is to limit the travel schedules as much as possible, although it is not a perfect science as many teams will still be traveling far distances to play games.

Licking Fingers and Spitting

This is an odd one, but actually well thought out. Many pitchers like to lick their fingers to help get a good grip when throwing the ball, but because that would be an easy way to possibly transmit coronavirus, the league has decided on an alternative.

Per Chris Cotillo of MassLive.com, pitchers will be able to carry a wet rag in their pocket to substitute for licking fingers – a much more sanitary method. It will be interesting to see if pitchers can avoid the force of habit, though.

Spitting is also prohibited. This includes, but is not limited to, saliva, sunflower seeds, peanut shells and tobacco.

Three-batter minimum

Remember this one? MLB was set to implement this as a new rule in 2020 and just because the season is an abbreviated one doesn’t mean the rule is going anywhere. Pitchers will still be required to face a minimum of three batters, or complete the inning.

Unsportsmanlike Conduct

Unsportsmanlike conduct, such as unnecessary physical contact between individuals on the field, will be prohibited and strictly enforced. Players and managers are to maintain social distancing from umpires and opposing players. If a player or manager leaves their positions to argue with an umpire or opposing player and comes within six feet of them, that player or manager will be immediately ejected and further disciplined with fines and/or suspension.

Trade Deadline

The trade deadline will be on Aug. 31, which would be about the halfway point of the season.

Social Distancing

There are all sorts of social distancing measures in place. Dugouts and bullpens must be expanded; fielders are encouraged to step away from baserunners when a ball is out of play; the catcher can step onto the grass to relay signs to the infield if the batter is in the batter's box; first and third base coaches should stay behind the coach's box and not approach a baserunner, fielder or umpire; players on opposite teams should not socialize or come within six feet of each other before, during or after games; no pre-game lineup cards will be exchanged. Lineups will be submitted via a mobile app.

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