Batters in the Atlantic League will get the chance to steal first base in a new series of experimental rules announced Thursday.
As the independent minor league prepares to expand the use of "robot umpires" leaguewide, Major League Baseball and the Atlantic League added four more rules to the second half of the season.
Batters may try to steal first base on any pitch that was not caught in flight. It expands the traditional dropped third strike rule to all pitches, and batters can be thrown out if they try to run.
Other rules being added:
One foul bunt is allowed with two strikes before it becomes a strikeout.
Pitchers are required to step off the rubber to try a pickoff.
A relaxation on check swings to be more batter-friendly.
In February, the Atlantic League and MLB announced a three-year partnership that allowed the league to serve as a testing ground for experimental playing rules and equipment. In March, they announced the first set of rules, including the TrackMan radar system for calling balls and strikes, the ban of the shift and a three-batter minimum for pitchers.
and in related news for the Atlantic League :
'Robot' Umpires Now Calling Balls And Strikes In One Professional Baseball League
The tradition-rich game of baseball got a significant overhaul this week as a professional league made history by introducing "robot" umpires to the diamond.
The Atlantic League of Professional Baseball, an eight-team league with clubs on the East Coast and a singular Texas squad, introduced the concept during it's All-Star game on Wednesday.
Though the technology is being touted as a robot umpire, the concept doesn't involve a robot at all, the York Daily Record reports. The system involves TrackMan software, which uses a radar system to determine balls and strikes. For the call to get down to field level, the umpire behind the plate carries an iPhone connected to its own wireless network and wears a wireless earpiece so he can hear what TrackMan calls each pitch.
According to the Record, TrackMan measures each batter's height and develops a strike zone based on that information. Pitches are also tracked with a Doppler radar screen that is mounted above home plate.
The Atlantic League plans to use the system in the back half of its 140-game season, an implementation that is part of an agreement with Major League Baseball, The Washington Post said.
The experiment is a three-year deal that includes TrackMan, increase the size of bases from the tradition 15-by-15 to 18-by-18, banning mound visits and a three-batter minimum for pitchers entering a game, among other rule changes. In a trade for the rule changes, the MLB agreed to scout more players from the Atlantic League and provide better scouting equipment, the Post said.