On the bright side, there’s no plan to institute the Designated Hitter in the National League.

The Playing Rules Committee announced the adoption of an experimental rule for use throughout the 2005 season in all of the Minor Leagues affiliated with Major League Baseball. The experimental rule, designed to encourage an improved pace of play, requires a batter to keep one foot in the batter’s box throughout an at-bat, unless certain exceptions apply, in which case the batter must remain within the dirt area surrounding home plate.

An umpire will be able to award an automatic strike or strikes, without the pitcher having to deliver a pitch, if a batter intentionally leaves the batter’s box and delays play. A similar rule applies in National Collegiate Athletic Association play.

The experimental rule was used successfully in 2004 during the Major League Baseball-operated Arizona Fall League, a developmental league for top Minor League prospects.

With the help of several pace-of-game initiatives introduced over the past several years, the time of the average nine-inning Major League regular-season game has dropped from 2:58 in 2000 to 2:47 in 2004.

Following the eventual retirement of Steve Trachsel, said average is expected to drop by another 20 minutes.