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‘Shohei Ohtani rule’ now official, extra-inning rule returns

Mar 28, 2022; Tempe, Arizona, USA; Los Angeles Angels designated hitter Shohei Ohtani (17) hits against the Oakland Athletics during a spring training game at Tempe Diablo Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association formally announced an amended designated hitter rule that has been approved for the 2022 season.

Dubbed the “Shohei Ohtani rule,” it allows a starting pitcher who begins the game while batting for himself to remain in the contest as the designated hitter after his pitching stint has concluded.

In the case of the Los Angeles Angels, they would be required to list star two-way player Ohtani on the lineup card twice — once as the designated hitter and again as the starting pitcher.

“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,” MLBPA Director of Player Services Kevin Slowey said in a release.

Last season, the Angels had to forfeit the DH when Ohtani pitched and batted in the same game, using pinch-hitters when the pitcher’s spot in the order came up after Ohtani departed the mound. In some games, the Angels moved Ohtani to the outfield after he was removed as a pitcher in order to keep his bat in the lineup.

The left-handed-hitting Ohtani batted .257 with 46 homers, 100 RBIs and 26 steals, while also going 9-2 with a 3.18 ERA in 23 starts as a pitcher in 2021. The right-handed from Japan struck out 156 in 130 1/3 innings on his way to a unanimous MVP award.

The Ohtani rule comes at a time in which the designated hitter will be used in both the American and National Leagues for the first time in a full 162-game season. The AL first implemented the DH in 1973.

It was also announced that the extra-inning rule, in which a runner is placed on second at the start of each half-inning from the 10th inning on, will be in use for the third straight season.

Both sides agreed that the rule will be an aid to protect health and safety. The offseason lockout pushed back the start of the season to April 7 and the schedule will feature more doubleheaders so a 162-game schedule can be played.

“As part of our discussions with the MLBPA regarding the condensed 162-game schedule, we have agreed to extend the extra-innings rule to the 2022 Championship Season and temporarily expand rosters.” MLB executive vice president of baseball operations Megan Sword said in the news release. “We are excited to see the universal designated hitter in action this season with amended rules that will promote the use of two-way players going forward.”

Opening Day rosters will include 28 players, up from 26, through, May 1. Any doubleheaders during that period will increase the roster to 29 players.

Player option assignments are limited to five but any moves made prior to May 2 will not count in the allotment.

–Field Level Media