MLB to apply 'Shohei Ohtani' rule, brings back automatic runners in extra innings

Last updated April 1, 2022

Major League Baseball announced on Thursday that they, along with the players union, had reached an agreement on a set of rule modifications that will take effect this season.

For the 2022 regular season, MLB and the MLBPA decided to preserve the contentious practice of starting each team with a runner on second base during extra innings. This rule was first adopted as part of MLB's pandemic guidelines during the 60-game 2020 pandemic season to avoid extra-inning games.

Following a truncated Spring Training, MLB announced specific changes to the active roster limitations in an effort to reduce injuries. From Opening Day, April 7, to May 1, the roster will extend from 26 to 28 players. On days when doubleheaders are played, clubs will be allowed to carry 29 players throughout that time. Thereafter, each doubleheader day will include 27 players. From April 7 through May 1, the regular 13-pitcher limit per roster will not apply; however, on May 2, the limit will be reinstated, and rosters will be limited to 26 players.

Pitchers and two-way players will also be able to be placed on the 10-day injury list. However, this would not be implemented until May 2. The 10-day IL will still be available to position players.

The regulation happens as a replacement for the 2017 rules of 15-day IL.

Another new regulation, dubbed the "Shohei Ohtani rule," helps the Los Angeles Angels' two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani.

Pitchers who open games in the batting order can now stay in the game as a designated hitter after leaving the mound in both leagues. A DH can also pitch throughout the game. This alteration will affect several seasons.

As part of the most recent labor agreement, MLB instituted a universal DH. Beginning in 2023, the new labor agreement provides MLB the right to unilaterally impose rule changes with 45 days' notice. Previously, the league had to give a year's notice.

Who reaps the benefit?

"The expansion of the designated hitter and giving two-way players enhanced flexibility to showcase their talents will benefit the game for the foreseeable future," union director of player services Kevin Slowey said in a statement. "The roster and extra-inning adjustments will also serve to protect the health and safety of players during what will be a unique 2022 season."

While most fans detest the extra-inning rule, it is supported by players, managers, the league, and team owners. For the 2022 season, the owners are anticipated to vote to approve the regulation.

When this is taken into account, the potential for faster finishes fits to the length-of-game battle that MLB is pursuing. The game will be played with fewer participants and pitchers as the game progresses. In a 162-game season, managers do not want to have to overextend their team for a single game in the middle of a series.

"I know it’s not traditional baseball, but when you’re talking about saving arms, and saving guys for the next day, I think it's good," Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo said to the USA Today. "I enjoyed the ghost runner over the last couple of years, I really have.

Martin Efvergren
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