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MLB experimenting with new rules and technology at Knights games

Automated balls/strikes, and pitch clock enforcement could soon be in the big leagues

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Major League Baseball higher-ups will be in Charlotte this weekend to check out changes to the sport that have been experimented with at Knights games this summer.

Senior Vice President of On-Field Operations Raúl Ibañez, and VP of On-Field Strategy Joe Martinez will be on hand.

MLB Network will broadcast Saturday night's game against the Syracuse Mets, partly to show off how the new wrinkles to the game are going, and to get fans used to them.

This year, teams in Triple-A have been using ABS, or Automated Ball/Strike System.

It takes that particular call off the shoulders of umpires.

Pitches are tracked electronically, with a ball or strike call being immediately relayed to the umpire who signals the result.

"I've really enjoyed it, the zone is the zone," said Knights outfielder Mark Payton. "I've really enjoyed it because it doesn't change." 

The system is said to be accurate within a tenth of an inch, and only at Knights games, the calls can be challenged and reviewed.

Each club gets three challenges to a ball or strike per game.

The ABS technology could be in the Major Leagues by 2024, and Payton thinks hitters there will like it.

"I do because it doesn't change," Payton said. "The big league hitters are so good and disciplined already, if they know whether every single pitch is a ball or a strike I think they're going to make themselves even better hitters."

Pitchers have adjusted to some changes too. 

Fans at Knights games may have noticed a pitch clock in the outfield the last few years, but this season it's being enforced.

It could arrive in the big leagues by 2023.

"I know the goal is pace of play and it's definitely worked here," Knights reliever Hunter Schryver said.

Pitchers have 30 seconds to throw between batters, 19 seconds with a runner on base, and 14 seconds with no one on base. 

A ball is called for a violation.

Hitters must be ready to bat with nine seconds left on the clock.

A strike is called for a hitter's violation.

And it's working. 

Minor league game times have been cut down by about a half an hour.

"Now if you have a game into 10 o'clock you're 'like wow that just took forever,'" he said.

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