TAMPA, Fla. — Major League Baseball is tweaking a rules experiment in the independent Atlantic League that forced teams to forfeit their designated hitter when removing a starting pitcher from the game.
The double-hook designated hitter was first tested in the Atlantic League last season, with teams losing their DH when they removed their starter. MLB and the Atlantic League on Tuesday announced that this season, if the starter completes at least five innings, teams can retain the DH for the rest of the game.
Other rules tested in the Atlantic League, including the Automated Ball-Strike System, have already made their way up baseball’s pipeline to the affiliated minors and could one day reach the majors. The DH was formally added to the National League as part of a new labor contract agreed to with players Thursday.
The Atlantic League will also restore a previously tested rule that lets batters attempt to advance to first base if a pitch is not caught in the air by the catcher. Batters can try for first even if the base is occupied, and they’ll be awarded with a hit if they reach. MLB hopes the rule will encourage better control from pitchers by disincentivizing wild pitches and passed balls.