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MLB makes 2020 rule changes official

The new changes include bringing the designated hitter to the National League and putting a player on second base to start each extra inning.

Major League Baseball has made new rule changes official for the 2020 baseball season. 

Two major changes will come to the game including expanding the designated hitter to games between National League teams for the first time in history. For the entire league, games that stretch past the traditional nine innings will now start with a runner on second base.

The player on second base will be the batter who immediately precedes the half-innings leadoff hitter in the batting order.

The league is also keeping the planned innovation that pitchers must face three batters or finish a half inning — players refused to agree a year ago but also waived their right to block.

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In addition to on-field rules, the baseball league has also finalized several health and safety procedures as coronavirus cases surge nationwide.

Spitting will be prohibited, but chewing gum will still be allowed. Instead of pitchers licking their fingers to wet the ball, they may now carry a small wet rag to use for moisture. 

In order to practice social distancing, MLB is requiring clubs to expand dugouts and bullpen space. The league is also encouraging distancing of players, umpires and other on-field personnel.

Players will start reporting for the resumption of training on July 1. It remains to be seen which players will report back to work — high-risk individuals are allowed to opt out and still receive salary and service time, but others who sit out get neither money nor the service credit needed for eligibility for free agency and salary arbitration.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Credit: AP
FILE - In this March 28, 2019, file photo, a large flag is unfurled during the national anthem before an opening day baseball game between the New York Yankees and the Baltimore Orioles at Yankee Stadium in New York. Forbes estimates the New York Yankees are baseball’s most valuable franchise at $5 billion, up 9% over last year and 47% more than the No. 2 Los Angeles Dodgers at $3.4 billion.(AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)