NEW YORK — Major League Baseball finalized the rules change Thursday to bring back automatic runners in extra innings for a third straight season.
Despite an easing of pandemic restrictions, MLB and the players’ association agreed to keep the controversial rule that starts each team with a runner on second base during extra innings for the 2022 regular season.
The agreement regarding on-field rules modifications also includes expanding active rosters from 26 players to 28 from Opening Day on April 7 through May 1 this year, due to the delayed start of spring training.
Another new rule benefits Angels two-way star Shohei Ohtani. With the designated hitter adopted in both leagues, pitchers who start games in the batting order can remain in the game as a DH after leaving the mound. A DH can also enter the game to pitch. That change will apply to multiple seasons.
“The expansion of the designated hitter and giving two-way players enhanced flexibility to showcase their talents will benefit the game for the foreseeable future,” union director of player services Kevin Slowey said in a statement. “The roster and extra-inning adjustments will also serve to protect the health and safety of players during what will be a unique 2022 season.”
The “zombie” runner modification was applied to the 2020 and 2021 regular seasons as part of adjustments due to COVID-19.
There were 78 extra-inning games during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, and the longest by innings were a pair of 13-inning contests at Houston, won by the Los Angeles Dodgers on July 29 and by Oakland on Aug. 7. Every previous season since 1901 had at least one game of 15 innings or longer.
There were 233 extra-inning games last year, and the longest was the Dodgers’ 16-inning win at the San Diego Padres on Aug. 25.
The modification for 2020 and 2021 that shortened doubleheaders to scheduled seven-inning games was not continued for 2022.
Active rosters will be 28 from Opening Day through May 1, 26 from May 2 through Aug. 31 and 28 for the rest of the regular season. Last season, the limit was 26 from Opening Day through Aug. 31, then 28.
Rookie qualifications going forward will remain the same as in 2021, when September days were not excluded toward the threshold of 45 days for the exhaustion of rookie status in future seasons.