NEW YORK (Reuters) - Major League Baseball has imposed a first set of rule changes since 1996 to address certain situations affecting play and issue guidelines governing official scoring decisions.
Rules governing penalties for pitchers applying foreign substances to the ball, catches made by players approaching the dugout or stands and the suspension of games that are tied after five innings were among 25 amended by the nine-member Playing Rules Committee effective for the 2007 season on Friday.
Pitchers found to apply a foreign substance onto the ball will face immediate ejection and an automatic suspension. Previously an umpire would declare a pitch a ball, warn the pitcher and announce the violation.
The new punishment brings the rule more in line with the automatic 10-game suspension levied on any player found to have defaced the ball by rubbing it with soil, rosin, sandpaper or other such foreign substance.
Fielders will not be allowed to step into a dugout to catch a foul ball. They will be allowed to reach in but must have at least one foot on or over the playing surface.
Should they fall into either a dugout or into the stands after making a legal catch, all baserunners will be allowed to advance one base.
Games suspended with the score tied in the bottom of the fifth inning or later had previously been declared a tie game, to be replayed in its entirety, though player statistics from the tie were counted.
That rule was changed so that a tied regulation game that is stopped will be resumed before the next scheduled game between the same two clubs on the same grounds.
If no more games remain scheduled between the teams at the original club's home park, the game would be resumed at the visitor's park.
Only if no scheduled games remain between the clubs would the game be called a tie, in which case it would be replayed in its entirety only if necessary to affect a playoff spot.
"A number of issues about the playing rules, some more technical in nature than others, had accumulated among umpires, clubs, players and Major League Baseball for some time," San Diego Padres CEO Sandy Alderson, who chaired the rules committee, said in a statement.
"The Playing Rules Committee hopes that these amendments will serve to clarify these issues and, by doing so, benefit all who play and umpire the game at all levels."