(April 22, 2021, New York) – Following its joint announcement last week with Major League Baseball regarding 2021 test rules, the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball (ALPB) today announced rules it will retain from the MLB experiments conducted in 2019. Many of these changes debuted in the Atlantic League that season and have been adopted by MLB for use in affiliated minor leagues.
“We’ve always known that MLB tests have the potential to land in the Majors,” said Atlantic League President Rick White. “MLB’s recent announcement that several of the 2019 experimental rules will be tested this season in affiliated minor leagues is another indicator that these may be the future of our game. It’s our goal to make our players ready for that future, so we are happy to continue many of these rules and provide more performance data to our partners at Major League Baseball.”
The most conspicuous of the returning rules is the Automated Ball-Strike System (ABS), which first made headlines at the Atlantic League All-Star Game in York, PA, in 2019. Now commonly known as “robo-umps,” the system uses newest generation Trackman tracking software to instantly relay a call of “ball” or “strike” to the earpiece of the home plate umpire. MLB announced it will expand use of the ABS to its Low-A Southeast league this season.
The three-batter minimum rule requiring pitchers to face at least three batters or reach the end of an inning before exiting the game was instituted in Major League Baseball last year and is in effect this season as well. It will again be in place when the Atlantic League begins play on May 27.
The Atlantic League will continue to use 18-inch bases. Three inches larger than traditional bags, the larger bases will also be used on AAA affiliated diamonds this year.
Atlantic League infielders will again be required to be on the infield dirt when a pitch is released this year. MLB will further test that rule at the AA level in 2021.
The time between innings will continue to be limited to one minute, 45 seconds, down from the previous two minutes, five seconds and in keeping, White said, with the ALPB’s longstanding efforts to improve the pace of play of the game.
Four other returning rules continue that effort. The extra inning tie-breaker, implemented in the Atlantic League before its rules test initiative with MLB, will continue. The rule places a runner at second base in the first extra inning of a regular season game. This rule was implemented in the big leagues in 2020 and is in effect this MLB season.
Managers, coaches, and players will be limited to three “timeouts” each nine-inning game, one timeout in the 10th inning, and one time out every three innings thereafter, reprising a rule originally introduced in the ALPB.
The league retains the intentional base on balls rule it implemented several years prior to MLB implementation in 2019.
Atlantic League pitchers will be limited to a 15-second period between pitches, which MLB will test in the Low-A West.