Thursday, November 23, 2017
Tampa Bay Rays

Baseball chief Manfred says changes could come this year to improve games' pace

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LAKELAND — Commissioner Rob Manfred wanted to make clear at the start of his Thursday address that he believes strongly "there is nothing about baseball that needs to be fixed."

Then he proceeded at spring training media day to detail changes he would like to see, as soon as this season, to eliminate dead time and increase action in games.

Most dramatic would be raising the bottom of the strike zone from below the knee to back above it, with the idea that more higher pitches would be put in play more often, and not result in more walks.

"The theory is the pitch below the knee is being called a strike more frequently, that that particular pitch is hard to hit and that forcing pitchers up in the zone would produce more action," Manfred said. "(This change) is sort of restoring the natural order, getting back to where we were."

Other changes under consideration, and in negotiation with the players union, include making intentional walks automatic and limiting the time managers have to decide on replays and the time for reviews to be completed.

Reducing the dead time, Manfred said, is more important than games' overall length. "A quicker pace is good for fans," he said. "What we want is a well-paced game with action regardless of time of game."

There could be a rush to get the changes implemented, given there is no deal yet with the union and camps are open, but Manfred said he is confident they can be done by opening day. Other changes, such as putting a runner on second base at the start of extra innings, will be made only at lower levels to allow for experimentation and data gathering.

On other topics, Manfred said:

• Florida, thanks to Gov. Rick Scott, has been "an unbelievable partner" to Major League Baseball in terms of providing and upgrading facilities for the 15 spring teams and the two that stick around year-round.

• Adding in-market game streaming for 27 teams, including the Rays, is a "really important way for particularly younger fans to enjoy our games."

• He would like to see "increased interest and support" for next month's World Baseball Classic in the United States as there is in other countries.

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