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Twins react to MLB’s rule changes, including three-batter minimum for pitchers in 2020

Minnesota Twins catcher Brian Navarreto (79) celebrates with left fielder Eddie Rosario (20) and first baseman C.J. Cron (24) after a three run home run during the sixth inning of their spring training game Wednesday, March 13. Butch Dill / USA TODAY Sports

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Major League Baseball and the Players Association announced Thursday, March 14, a series of rule changes that will go into effect over the next couple of years.

The changes themselves have been making headlines, especially pitchers’ three-batter minimum, which would require a pitcher to remain in the game until he faced at least three batters or the end of an inning came around.

But perhaps one of the most important aspects of the deal is the two sides’ willingness to negotiate during the middle of a Collective Bargaining Agreement as they move toward a potentially contentious showdown when the current CBA ends in 2021.

“It’s definitely positive because it’s not something that necessarily had to happen, but for both sides to get together and agree to something that kind of moves the needle is good,” said Minnesota Twins catcher Jason Castro, who was the Astros’ longtime player rep. “I think from a player’s standpoint, we want the best product on the field all across the league, and in order to do that, I think some of these changes are a step in that direction.”

Both players and officials have been kept in the loop about the upcoming changes, so none came as a surprise, though Twins chief baseball Derek Falvey said he wasn’t sure when the changes would be announced.

Some of the rule changes implemented next year will include shortening inning breaks, cutting down the number of mound visits, eliminating waiver trades with a hard July 31 deadline, as well as creating an All-Star Game voting “Election Day,” and more.

The 2020 rules will have a bigger impact on the field as active rosters are expanded from 25 to 26, and teams will only be allowed to carry 28 active players during September after rosters expand, as well as the three-batter minimum for pitchers, among other new changes.

The three-batter minimum will be implemented unilaterally by the commissioner’s office. It is perhaps one of the most talked-about new rules -- and for good reason -- as it will play a role in on-field strategy.

It also will change roster construction, and how teams manage bullpens, so Falvey is happy to have a year to think about the new rule.

“I think without question it is the most significant strategic on-field change relative to the changes that were announced,” Falvey said. “That one’s going to be interesting for a subset of players. We’ve all long thought that there might be a player that’s a left-on-left situational guy and you worry a little less about his exposure against right-handed hitters. Well, that will change.”

Major League Baseball has been focusing in on quickening the pace of play with many of these changes for years -- the point of the three-batter minimum, for example, is to cut down on time spent making pitching changes -- to keep fans’ attention and foster engagement.

And a big part of keeping fans’ attention is having the best product on the field, which, for a variety of reasons, hasn’t always been the case.

“Obviously the goal of all the pace-of-play stuff is to drive fan engagement, but at the end of the day, if the best competition isn’t on the field at all times with all 30 teams, then you’re kind of taking one step forward with two steps back with pace-of-play (because) then fans aren’t excited to watch the product that’s on the field,” Castro said.

Free agency and service time manipulation are among things that will need to be addressed as the two sides head toward their next CBA negotiations, Twins player rep Kyle Gibson said.

“When it comes down to it, teams and players are working together to try to get the best game possible for the fans,” Gibson said. “This game is nothing without the fans who are watching on TV or watching in the stands, so our goal is to hopefully have the best game out there possible and the best product on the field and hopefully spread joy like America’s past time did all throughout the last century.”

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