Major League Baseball has made formal proposals to the players’ union to make changes to intentional walks and the strike zone, ESPN.com reported Monday.
The innovations can’t be implemented without approval of the Major League Baseball Players Association.
The union is currently in the process of getting feedback from the players on the proposed changes, sources told ESPN.
With Grapefruit and Cactus League spring training games beginning on Feb. 24, an agreement would have to be reached soon to take effect this season.
The league is proposing to raise the lower part of the strike zone to the top of the hitter’s knees, effectively raising the zone by an estimated 2 inches, according to the report. Since 1996, the bottom of the strike zone has been defined as “the hollow beneath the kneecap.”
The change in the rule for intentional walks rule would end the long-standing practice of requiring the pitcher to toss four soft pitches outside the strike zone. MLB is proposing a team instead could just signify it wants to issue an intentional walk and the hitter would be sent directly to first base, ESPN reported.
The league presented the two proposals to the union in late January after they were agreed to by both its competition committee and playing-rules committee, according to ESPN.
The intentional-walk proposal is part of MLB’s attempts to speed up the game.
“We did review some rule changes largely related to pace of game that are being discussed with the players’ association,” MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said during two days of owners meetings that concluded Friday in Palm Beach, Fla.
Manfred has pushed for faster games since he became commissioner more than two years ago.
The average time of a nine-inning game last season was 3 hours, a 4-minute increase over 2015. One playoff game took more than 4 1/2 hours.
“Pace of play is an issue that ‘we’ need to be focused on,” Manfred said last week. “The ‘we’ there is players, owners, umpires, everyone who is invested in this game. I don’t think there’s a magic bullet that is going to come one year to be the solution to pace of play. It’s going to be an ongoing effort to make sure our game moves along in a way that is most attractive to our fans.”