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MLB Aims To Speed Up Baseball With New Rules

ERIC WESTERVELT, HOST:

Play ball - spring training starts in just two days. And Major League Baseball will continue its efforts to speed up the game with several new rules. NPR's Eyder Peralta reports.

EYDER PERALTA, BYLINE: Here's how David Lennon, a sports columnist for New York Newsday, describes plays around second base.

DAVID LENNON: I would say it's always been part ballet and part, you know, UFC. You know, I think that's what play around second base has been.

PERALTA: That cage match metaphor was fitting for a play during last season's playoffs.

(SOUNDBITE OF 2015 NATIONAL LEAGUE DIVISION SERIES)

ERNIE JOHNSON, JR.: Up the middle, gloved by Murphy. Wow, did Chase Utley go in hard at second as the tying run scores.

PERALTA: The Dodgers' Chase Utley stops a double play, but the Mets shortstop, Ruben Tejada, ends up writhing on the diamond with a broken leg. A new rule makes it illegal for a runner to try to break up a double play without sliding. It also forces a fielder to actually touch second base to make an out. In the past, an umpire could give a player the benefit of the doubt if they shuffled past the base to get out of the way from a charging runner. David Lennon says coaches and players are not sure the new rule will make the game safer.

LENNON: Is baseball making a shortstop or a second baseman more vulnerable now by making him spend more time around the base and be more of a target?

PERALTA: But Lennon believes the big difference will be in the pace of the game. Those plays at second base can now be challenged.

LENNON: What the fan will see is that there could be some more dead time.

PERALTA: At the same time, the other two new rules are meant to make games shorter.

(SOUNDBITE OF BASEBALL GAME)

UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER #1: And now pitching coach Brent Strom comes out to the mound.

PERALTA: One of them limits visits to the mound to 30 seconds. Managers are known to buy time for relief pitchers by taking leisurely trips to the mound. In a game last year, Astros pitching coach Brent Strom comes out to talk to his pitcher. And he takes a good 40 seconds waiting for the umpire to come break it up. And then he gets tossed for mouthing off.

(SOUNDBITE OF BASEBALL GAME)

UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER #2: And that's why a pitching coach or a manager may stay at the mound sometimes, just wait until the home-plate umpire comes out there.

PERALTA: The other rule cuts commercial breaks between innings. Here's David Lennon again.

LENNON: Here and there, they're trying to snip and save some seconds. But yeah, that's always going to be working in balance with the instant replay and the technology that's being brought into the game.

PERALTA: In other words, the new rules might just lead to the same old game. Eyder Peralta, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.