SPOKANE, Wash. - The Pioneer League is replacing extra innings with a tiebreaking home run derby.
The independent partner league of Major League Baseball said Tuesday that tied games this season will be decided by each team designating a batter who will receive five pitches, and the team hitting the most long balls during the derby will receive the win. If the derby is tied after five swings each, another hitter will be selected for a sudden-death derby round.
The league said the rule is designed "to avoid the excessive strain on our pitching staffs."
While Major League Baseball is behind experimental rule changes in the independent Atlantic League, it is not involved in the Pioneer League changes.
Other Pioneer League rule changes involve:
— Designated pinch hitter: Each team can use once per game a designated pinch hitter, who will bat for a player, but the original player may then return to his defensive position unless and until substituted. The designated pinch hitter may not subsequently return to the game.
— Designated pinch runner: Each team can use once per game a designated pinch runner, who will run for a player, but the original player may then return to his defensive position unless and until substituted. The designated pinch runner may not subsequently return to the game.
— Check swings: A hitter may appeal a check swing strike decision to a base umpire. Under standard baseball rules, only the defensive team can ask for an appeal.
— Three-man umpire crews will be used instead of two-man crews.
Founded in 1939, the Pioneer League lost its affiliated status as part of changes to the minor leagues implemented by MLB ahead of the 2022 season,. It will operate as a partner league with eight teams in Colorado, Idaho, Montana and Utah playing a 96-game schedule starting May 22.
"The Pioneer Baseball League is committed to developing ideas that enhance the strategy of the game, protect the safety of our players and add to the fun and engagement of our fans," league president Michael Shapiro said in a statement. "We believe this focus will help assure the future of the game among a broader and more diverse audience."