MLB makes extra-inning ‘ghost runner’ permanent

The rule was adopted as a pandemic measure for the 2020 season.

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Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred speaks with reporters last week.

Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred speaks with reporters last week.

Lynne Sladky/AP

NEW YORK — Starting extra innings with a runner on second base during the regular season was made a permanent rules change by Major League Baseball on Monday after three seasons of use during the coronavirus pandemic.

Known by some as the “Ghost Runner” and by others as the “Manfred Man” after baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred, the rule was unanimously adopted by the sport’s 11-person competition committee.

Use of position players as pitchers also was tightened by the committee. They will be limited to extra innings, when a player’s team is losing by eight or more runs or is winning by 10 or more runs in the ninth inning. Last year, a position player could pitch only in extra innings or if his team was losing or winning by six or more runs.

The joint competition committee, established in the lockout settlement last March, includes six management officials, four union representatives and one umpire.

There were 216 extra-inning games last year, down from 233 in 2021 and 78 during the shortened 2020 season. The longest last year was Cleveland’s 7-6, 15-inning win over Minnesota in the second game of a doubleheader on Sept. 17. That was one inning shy of the longest in the three seasons of the rule, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ 16-inning win at San Diego on Aug. 25, 2021.

Home teams went 113-103 in extra-inning games last year and are 262-263 in extra innings since the runner on second rule started in 2020, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Home teams were 312-294 in extra-inning games from 2017-19, Elias said.

The rule was adopted as a pandemic measure for the 2020 season.

“Clubs have gotten used to the extra-innings rule,” Manfred said Thursday after an owners’ meeting. “I think it’s generally well-liked by players.”

Use of position players as pitchers rose from 90 on 2019 to 89 in 2021 and 132 last year, according to the commissioner’s office. Use when trailing by six or seven runs increased from eight in 2019 to 16 in 2021 to 28 last year.

Use when leading by six or more runs rose from 1 in 2019 and none in 2021 to 18 last season.

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