New York: Major League Baseball is taking steps to speed up the pace of play in 2015, including a clock to time breaks between innings and pitching changes.
Other initiatives announced on Friday include the enforcement of the batter`s box rule.
"These changes represent a step forward in our efforts to streamline the pace of play," said Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred.
"The most fundamental starting point for improving the pace of the average game involves getting into and out of breaks seamlessly. In addition, the batter`s box rule will help speed up a basic action of the game."
The batter`s box rule will require batters to keep at least one foot in the box. It applies mostly when there is no one on base.
Exceptions include a swing at a pitch, a pitch that forces the batter out of the box, a wild pitch or passed ball, time granted by the umpire, the pitcher`s departure from the dirt area of the mound and the catcher leaving his box to give defensive signals.
A batter can exit the box at those times, but cannot leave the dirt area surrounding home plate. If the batter delays play when leaving the box, the umpire shall award a strike without the pitcher having to deliver a pitch. The ball is dead and runners cannot advance.
The time clock component will force pitchers and batters to be ready once television commercial breaks end between innings.
Timers will count down from 2:25 for locally televised games and 2:45 for national broadcasts.
The rules will be enforced through a warning and fine system, although the fines won`t be imposed until the second month of the season.
A pace of game committee came up with the plans, and rejected other ideas including a pitch clock and no-pitch intentional walks.
Replay procedures will also be modified so that a manager will not have to leave the dugout to institute a challenge.
Managers will still have only one challenge per game, but will retain that challenge for every call that is overturned.
Last season, major league games averaged more than three hours for nine-inning games for the first time in history. That`s despite the fact that scoring was at its lowest since 1976.