LOS ANGELES – The Dodgers are scheduled to open spring training play against the Milwaukee Brewers in Phoenix Saturday under the biggest set of rule changes in baseball history.
Major League Baseball has added a pitch timer, put restrictions on defensive shifts and expanded bases in an attempt to improve pace of play, reduce dead time, encourage more balls in play, give players more opportunities to showcase their athleticism and reduce injuries.
Pitchers will have up to 15 seconds between pitches when the bases are empty and up to 20 seconds between pitches with at least one runner on base. A pitcher must begin his motion before the expiration of the timer. A violation will result in a ball being called.
A pitcher may “disengage the rubber,” including to attempt a pickoff throw, twice per plate appearance without penalty. Subsequent disengagements result in a balk, unless an out is recorded on a runner.
The pitch timer resets following a disengagement. The disengagement count resets if the runner advances.
A hitter must be in the batter’s box and alert to the pitcher with at least eight seconds remaining on the pitch timer.
A hitter receives one timeout per plate appearance.
Umpires will have the authority to provide additional time if warranted by special circumstances, such as a catcher making the last out of the inning and needing additional time to get into a defensive position.
The pitch timer was used in minor league baseball last season, with the average time of a nine-inning game reduced 26 minutes from three hours, four minutes in 2021 to two hours, 38 minutes in 2022, according to MLB.
Stolen base attempts per game increased from 2.23 in 2019, at a 68% success rate, to 2.83 in 2022, at a 77% success rate.
Two infielders must be positioned on each side of second base when the pitch is released, all four infielders must have both feet within the outer boundary of the infield when the pitcher is on the rubber and infielders may not switch sides unless there is a substitution.
The size of first, second, and third base will increase from the standard 15-inch square to 18-inch square. Larger bases reduced base-related injuries by 13.5% in minor league baseball in 2022 from 2021.
Bigger bases will reduce the distance between first and second and between second and third base by 4 1/2 inches, encouraging teams to attempt to steal bases more frequently and generally be more aggressive on the basepaths.
Rookie right-hander Michael Grove will start for the Dodgers against fellow right-hander Robert Stock.
Grove was 1-0 with a 4.60 ERA in 29 1/3 innings in seven games with the Dodgers last season, including six starts. He did not face the Brewers.
Grove is still considered a rookie because he pitched fewer than 50 innings last season and was on the roster for fewer than 45 days.
The Dodgers chose Grove in the second round of the 2018 MLB draft out of West Virginia University. He has a career 2-14 record with a 5.84 ERA in three minor league seasons, including a 1-5 record with a 3.79 ERA in 2022 when he split the season between the Dodgers’ Double-A Tulsa affiliate and Triple-A Oklahoma City affiliate.
Former Los Angeles Angels right-hander Matt Andriese and left-hander Bryan Hudson are also set to pitch for the Dodgers. Both signed minor league contracts with the Dodgers during the off-season and are not on the 40-man roster.
Andriese was 0-2 with a 4.82 ERA in five games with the Yomiuri Giants of Nippon Professional Baseball’s Central League in 2022 and 5-0 with a 2.03 ERA in 10 games with the Giants’ Eastern League affiliate, also known as the Yomiuri Giants.
Andriese last pitched in the majors in 2021 when he split the season between the Boston Red Sox and Seattle Mariners and was 2-3 with a 5.21 ERA in 34 appearances, all in relief.
The 33-year-old UC Riverside alumnus has a 28-37 record over seven seasons with four teams. He was 2-4 with a 4.50 ERA in 16 games with the Angels in 2020, including one start.
The 25-year-old Hudson pitched seven seasons in the Chicago Cubs organization without reaching the majors with a 32-27 record and 4.37 ERA.
The 33-year-old Stock is a former Agoura High and USC standout who has a 2-4 record with a 4.71 ERA in 55 major league appearances from 2018-21 with the San Diego Padres, Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs and New York Mets.
Stock was 9-10 with a 3.60 ERA in 29 games, all starts, in 2022 with the Doosan Bears of Korea’s KBO League. He is scheduled to play for Israel in next month’s World Baseball Classic.
Elvis Peguero, who pitched for the Angels from 2021-22, and fellow right-hander Tyson Miller, who pitched four games for the Texas Rangers in 2022, are also scheduled to pitch for Milwaukee, along with left-hander Alex Claudio, who pitched 41 games for the Angels in 2021 and three for the New York Mets in 2022, and 24-year-old right-hander Tobias Myers, who has pitched six seasons in the minors with five organizations but has not pitched in the majors.
The 12:10 p.m. game will be televised by SportsNet LA.