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MLB announces 30-second mound visit & new slide rules

The evil Chase Utley and lollygaggers on the mound have sprung MLB into action.

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

As baseball continues to try and find ways to make the games quicker and safer, four new rules have been announced by the Commissioner's Office.

On the first rule, you can thank the evil, malicious, pernicious, baleful Chase Utley. Players sliding into second base are no longer allowed to go far outside the baseline with the intent of breaking up a double play. The rules stem from an incident in last year's postseason in which Utley, then with the Dodgers, slid hard into an unsuspecting Ruben Tejada at second, breaking Tejada's leg.

The sliding rule will emphasize that the runner must slide prior to reaching second base, that he must slide in such a way that he is able to reach or touch the base, or at least make a reasonable and believable attempt to do so, that he slide in such a way that he stays on the base, and that the runner is not supposed to change his pathway to the base.

Of course, baseball already has a rule in place stipulating that a runner is not allowed to intentionally interfere with a fielder who is trying to either throw or catch a ball. But the new rule is designed to take the judgment of umpires out of the equation, and make it more black and white.

The new rule states that if a player does appear to make an earnest effort to reach base safely and, in the process, makes contact with the fielder and breaks up a double play, the other runner will not be called out because of interference.

The second rule has to do with the so-called "neighborhood play," where the second baseman or shortstop only has to be close to the bag but not actually touching it in order for an out to be called at second during a double play try.

For years, fielders have often times not actually been standing on second base when they receive the pivot throw, specifically to avoid contact with a runner. Whereas that play had previously not been reviewable, it now is, which means if a fielder does not have his foot on second base when he is in possession of the ball, the runner at second will be called safe under review.

So on one hand, you've got a new rule declaring runners have to be safer when sliding into second on a double play ball, but on the other hand, fielders will be forced to actually be in contact with second, likely resulting in more contact with runners coming into that base.

And if you thought instant replay delays checking to see if a base runner came off the bag for one millisecond was fun, you're going to love that one.

The other two rules have to do with making games shorter. Baseball is acutely aware that younger viewers are used to shorter viewing times, and have been working hard to speed up the pace in-game.

This year, there will be a 30-second stadium clock that will count down during all mound visits, beginning from the time a coach exits the dugout. That means no more slow, long walks and stalling at the mound while a reliever feverishly warms up in the bullpen. And that also means, no more two-minute strategy sessions in which the pitching coach and pitcher try to decide how to pitch the next five hitters.

Umpires have historically had the ability to break up mound visits when they saw fit, but now a clock will make that decision for them.

The final rule change is commercial breaks between innings of regular season games will be shortened by 20 seconds. Between-inning breaks will be reduced from 2:25 to 2:05 and nationally-televised games will be shorted from 2:45 to 2:25.

MLB says, "the change aims to allow players to more closely match the resumption of play with the return of broadcasters from commercial breaks."

Commissioner Rob Manfred said the league will continue to look at more ways to speed up the game.

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