Major League Baseball has distributed a memo to all 30 teams detailing new protocols to try and curb incidences of intentional hit-by-pitches, Jon Heyman of MLB Network reported Tuesday.
Under the new guidelines, umpires will confer on the field to determine whether there was intent behind a hit-by-pitch, according to Heyman. Managers will also be held more accountable in the event of such incidents; exactly what that means in terms of discipline is unclear.
The issue of pitchers intentionally throwing at batters has become a hot topic recently, largely thanks to league-wide anger toward the Houston Astros. Multiple pitchers on other teams have intimated they'll consider throwing at Astros hitters this coming season as a way to exact revenge for their sign-stealing, leading Houston manager Dusty Baker to publicly ask MLB to step in and protect his players.
Despite the timing of the memo, Heyman reports the new rules are unrelated to the recent fallout from the Astros' sign-stealing scandal. The changes have reportedly been in the works for several months and stem from multiple incidents that occurred last season, most notably a months-long beanball war between the Cincinnati Reds and Pittsburgh Pirates that featured two nasty brawls and multiple suspensions.
Commissioner Rob Manfred told reporters during a Tuesday media conference that he's already met with managers in both Florida and Arizona in an attempt to crack down on intentional hit-by-pitch incidents.
"My concern here is that whenever somebody is throwing intentionally at a player, it creates the risk of serious, serious injury," Manfred said, according to SNY. "And I've asked the managers to work with their players to prevent that type of activity which can lead to serious injury.
"We'll be working closely with the umpires, we know there's gonna be difficult situations. But I can't tell you that I have a magic bullet to prevent those issues. All we can do is get in front of the issue. We're really cognizant of it, and we're already taking steps to try to minimize those sorts of problems."