Pitchless intentional walks could start this week

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WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Pitchless intentional walks could start in spring training games this week.

Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred said the change, which the players' association has said it will agree to for 2017, is among the rule changes that have been distributed to teams. Planned modifications to video review rules for this season include a 30-second time limit for managers to request a review, and a two-minute limit for the review umpire in New York to make a decision — unless a supervisor in the replay room gives permission for the umpire to take longer.

Under the change to the intentional walk rule, a team can signal for an intentional walk without pitches being thrown. Manfred said Major League Baseball staff has been going over the changes with teams, and the new intentional walk rule probably will go into effect this week.

"As soon as we're done with the clubs, we'll start implementing the pitchless intentional walk," Manfred said Tuesday before the opening game of the new spring training ballpark of Houston and Washington. "We need to give them a chance to at least look at the rules before we move ahead and implement it on the field."

Wanting to speed the pace of play, management also discussed raising the lower edge of the strike zone from just beneath the kneecap to its pre-1996 level the top of the kneecap, the installation of pitch clocks and limits on trips to the pitcher's mound.

The players' union said it will not agree to changes in those areas this year. Under baseball's labor contract, management can make unilateral changes to playing rules only with one year advance notice.

"The intentional walk with no pitches was a small change in a much larger package," Manfred said. "We don't think that particular change — we know how the math works — is going to have a momentous impact on the game. By the same token, every little change that makes the game faster I personally believe is a good thing for the game over the long haul."

Manfred said talks will continue with union head Tony Clark and players.

"I think what I'd like to do is have our dialogue with the players privately," Manfred said. "Over the years it served us best to have those conversations in a room. I talked to Tony last week. We talked about the idea of getting together and looking at information about the game with a group of players."

Other changes planned for this year include revised language to stop quick pitchers and to keep first- and third-base coaches in the coach's boxes.

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