NEW YORK -- The Atlantic League is restoring its pitching mound to 60 feet, 6 inches from home plate and returning strike zone judgment to umpires after experimenting with moving the rubber back a foot and using an automatic ball-strike system.
The independent league announced the changes Thursday as part of its partnership with Major League Baseball. The sides have been paired since 2019, with the Atlantic League agreeing to test rules and equipment that might one day reach the majors.
The automated ball-strike system debuted in the Atlantic League for the second half of the 2019 season and has since been tested and tweaked in the affiliated low-Class A Southeast League. The so-called robo-umps might still one day make it to the majors, although a move to ABS there doesn't seem imminent.
The 61-foot, 6-inch distance to the mound appears dead. Neither the data nor feedback from players or coaches in the Atlantic League last season suggests the extra foot had much effect.
The Atlantic League will continue to use larger, 17-inch bases; anti-shift rules; and a change to extra innings that puts runners at first and second to begin the first inning after regulation and then loads the bases for innings after that.
The league said in a statement Thursday that it will announce other rules experiments for 2022 later this spring.
"We are honored to pioneer the future of the game with Major League Baseball," Atlantic League president Rick White said. "We're proud that many tests today will find their way to the big leagues in the future. We will continue to closely corroborate on tests with MLB."