April 7, 2023

2023 Batter, Catcher and Shift Regulations

Rules Questions for the 2023 Season

2023 Batter, Catcher and Shift Regulations

The Batter and Timing Regulations

Question: What is defined as being alert to the pitcher with 8 seconds remaining on the clock?

Answer: The batter must have both feet in the batter’s box, and facing the pitcher. He must have his eye on the pitcher and be in a position to quickly assess a hitting stance. After becoming reasonably set in the batter’s box, it is the batter’s responsibility to maintain his alertness. The batter is charged with a “Strike” if he fails to adhere to the “alert to the pitcher” regulations. The batter does not have to go through any warm-up routine to be considered alert to the pitcher.

The most publicized situation involving the “alert to the pitcher” regulation occurred in the  February 25, 2023 Red Sox-Braves spring training game that ended in the bottom of the ninth with the score tied.   Braves infielder Cal Conley, who batting with the bases loaded, two outs and a full count, was not alert to the pitcher by the 8-second mark of the Pitch Timer and was therefore assessed an automatic strike. In this situation, the catcher was standing and not in position to receive the pitch, but it didn’t matter. The batter not being alert to the pitcher supersedes the catcher’s conduct.

Another interesting situation occurred on March 13, 2023 in the Yankees-Twins spring training game when the 8 sec. batter alert rule was carried to another level. The Yankees’ Jake Bauers was batting in the seventh inning. He was alert to the pitcher at the 8-second mark of the pitch clock abiding by the rule. But Twins pitcher Alex Phillips was not ready to pitch. Bauers noticed this and collected himself, looking down for a moment, knowing a pitch was not about to be thrown. The plate umpire charged him with a violation, which amounted to a third strike. The bottom line is no matter what the pitcher is doing beyond the 8-sec. mark, the batter must be alert and ready.


Question: Who was the first batter to be charged with a “Strike” in spring training for not being alert to the pitcher.

Answer: As far as I know, the Padres’ Manny Machado was penalized for violating MLB’s new pitch clock rules on the first day of 2023 Spring Training with HP Umpire Ryan Blakney awarding an automatic strike during the February 24, 2023  Seattle-San Diego spring training game. Because Mariners pitcher Robbie Ray was unable to deliver his pitch to Machado since he was not ready to receive it in time, Machado was charged with a “Strike.” With one out and none on in the bottom of the first inning, Machado failed to appear in the batter’s box and alert to the pitcher (ready for the pitch) with eight seconds remaining on the pitch clock countdown timer. As a result, Blakney called “Time” and awarded an automatic strike, making the count 0-1. The at-bat continued in short order with Machado getting a base hit.


Question: What happens if a batter has used his one timeout and subsequently steps out of the box during the same plate appearance?

Answer: The umpire will call a “Strike” on the batter.


Question: What if the batter steps out of the box and doesn’t ask for “Time” with more than 8 seconds remaining and the pitcher is not engaged with the rubber?

Answer: The batter will not be considered as having called a timeout. If the batter steps out of the box in this situation, the clock will continue to run, and the batter must return to the batter’s box and be alert to the pitcher with at least 8 seconds remaining on the Pitch Timer or a “Strike” will be called on the batter.


Question: Must the batter be alert to the pitcher if with at least 8 seconds remaining on the timer, the pitcher is not on the rubber?

Answer: Yes


Question: How is it handled when a batter uses his timeout and is replaced by a pinch-hitter later in the plate appearance. Will the pinch-hitter be allotted a timeout?

Answer: No.


Question: If a batter is brushed back or knocked down by a pitch, should the Field Timing Coordinator give the batter more time to get set and be alert to the pitcher?

Answer: The FTC should delay the start of the time clock until the batter has had an opportunity to gather himself.


Question: If the plate umpire judges that the FTC has reset the timer too quickly after a batter has been brushed back or knocked down, can he waive off the timer and reset it when play is ready to resume?

Answer: Yes.


Question: If the batter-runner ends up on base and needs to hand protective equipment to a base coach or bat boy/girl, when should the 30 seconds between batters timer be reset?

Answer: When the batter-runner hands the equipment to the coach or bat boy/girl.


Question: If a batter holds up an open palm to the umpire as he enters the batter’s box, will that be considered as a request for his one “Time” per at bat?

Answer: Yes


Question: If a batter hits a foul ball or any time the ball goes into dead ball territory, when does the Pitch Timer reset?

Answer: The timer shall reset to 20 seconds (runners on base) and 15 seconds (bases empty) when the pitcher is in possession of the ball on the dirt of the pitcher’s mound, and the catcher and the batter are in the dirt circle surrounding the plate. Also, the clock cannot reset until all defensive players have returned to their positions and runners have returned to their original bases and play is ready to resume.

The Catcher and the Timing Regulations

Question: If the catcher ends an inning on deck, at bat, or on base, is the catcher automatically granted more time to return to the catcher’s box?

Answer: The umpire may waive off the timer, but it is within the umpire’s discretion. The extension time is not automatic. The umpire will determine if the catcher made a reasonable effort to comply with the “Inning Break Timer.” If the umpire grants more time, the umpire will signal the FTC to shut off the timer before it reaches 30 seconds.


Question: How does this affect the pitcher’s warmup pitches?

Answer: When the game catcher is in position, the umpire will signal the pitcher that he has one warmup pitch remaining and the catcher may throw down to second base. The FTC will then reset the clock to 15 seconds when the umpire determines play is ready to resume.


Question: In a normal situation where the catcher is not on deck, at bat, or on base when the inning ends, how long does the catcher have to be in the catcher’s box?

Answer: 9 seconds. If the catcher is in violation of the rule, the pitcher can be charged with a “Ball.”


Question: If the catcher attempts a pick-off throw, does it affect the timer or the pitcher’s Disengagements?

Answer: No.


Question: How does the FTC handle it if the catcher leaves the catcher’s box to give defensive signals during a pitching change but after the final warmup pitches?

Answer: The timer should stop with runners on base only and reset to 20 seconds when the catcher starts to return to his position and the pitcher is in possession of the ball.


Question: Why was Phillies’ catcher J.T. Realmuto ejected in the March 27, 2023 Phillies-Blue Jays spring training game?

Answer: With one out and one on, Phillies pitcher Craig Kimbrel was called for a pitch clock violation by umpire Randy Rosenberg after he failed to begin his pitching motion prior to the expiration of time, resulting in an award of an automatic “Ball” to Blue Jays batter Danny Jansen’s count. After the violation, Kimbrel requested and received a replacement baseball from Rosenberg, who threw the replacement ball to the pitcher directly. Realmuto, having initially reached back with his catcher’s mitt to receive a replacement ball, retracted his arm and mitt after realizing that Kimbrel had already received a replacement ball from the umpire. Rosenberg, however, had begun giving a new baseball to Realmuto and was mid-throw when Realmuto pulled his mitt away, the errant gesture resulting in the ball falling to the ground. Realmuto was then ejected. Replays indicate the pitch clock displayed zero prior to Kimbrel’s delivery.  At the time of the ejection, the Phillies were leading, 4-0.

In my opinion, common sense should have prevailed here, and no violation should have been called unless the umpire had strong evidence that Realmuto was trying to buy more time for Kimbrel or was in some way trying to show-up the umpire.


Question: If an infielder begins the game on one side of the infield, can he change during the game?

Answer: Yes. Originally, infielders who began the game on one side of the field would not be allowed to switch to the other side for the entirety of the game, but that was revised to just each inning — unless there’s a mid-inning substitution or if there’s an injury mid-inning, then the infield can be reset.


Question: When can the infielders move?

Answer: As soon as the ball leaves the pitcher’s hand. Infielders must wait until the ball is delivered. I assume that some infielders will start movement when the pitcher is in his delivery to pitch. This will be a violation.


Question: Can a team bring an outfielder into the infield?

Answer: Yes. A team can play with five infielders but cannot play with four outfielders.


Question: Can a team station an outfielder in the short outfield?

Answer: Yes


Question: Can an outfielder position himself directly behind second base?

Answer: Yes


Question: Regarding the shift regulations, is this a reviewable situation as to whether or not the defensive team complied with the regulation?

Answer: Yes


Question: What happens if it is ruled that the defensive team has violated the shift regulations and the ball is not put in play?

Answer: A “Ball” is charged to the pitcher.


Question: If a batter puts the ball in play and it is ruled that the defensive team has violated the shift rule, what is the penalty?

Answer: The offensive team can take the result of the play instead of the “Ball” penalty. I would advise the manager of the offensive team to initiate the meeting with the plate umpire if he wants to take the play. It’s possible he might want to trade an out for a run.


Question: Under what other conditions does the manager of the offensive team have the option of taking the play or the penalty

Answer: Catcher’s Interference, and if it is determined that a batter hit a doctored baseball.


Question: Have there been any shift violations in spring training?

Answer: It was reported that the Twins had a strikeout nullified due to a shift violation. Otherwise, I am not aware of any violation.

Other Rules Questions for the 2023 Season

Question: Will the Ghost Runner be used again this year in extra innings?

Answer: Yes. Starting extra innings with a runner at second base during the regular season was made a permanent rule change. It was unanimously adopted by Baseball’s 11-person competition committee.


Question: Did the Ghost Runner Favor the home team in 2022?

Answer: According to the Elias Sports Bureau, home teams went 113-103 in extra- inning games last year and are 262-263 in extra innings since the Ghost Runner rule started in the pandemic 2020 season. So, in the last three seasons covering 525 extra-inning games, the Ghost Runner has favored neither team. Home teams were 312-294 in extra- inning games from 2017 to 2019.


Question: Are there any new rules regarding the use of position players as pitchers?

Answer: Yes. The use of position players as pitchers will be limited to extra innings, when a player’s team is losing by eight or more runs or is winning by 10 or more runs in the ninth inning. According to the commissioner’s office, use of position players as pitchers rose from 89 in 2021 to 132 in 2022.

Last year, a position player could pitch only in extra innings or if his team was losing or winning by six or more runs.


Rich Marazzi

Rules consultant/analyst:  Angels, D’backs, Dodgers, Nationals, Orioles, Padres, Phillies, Pirates, Red Sox, Rangers, Royals, Tigers, Twins, White Sox, Yankees, Bally Sports, YES, and NBC Sports Chicago.  

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