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Manfred non-committal on robot umps, focused on this year's changes

Mary DeCicco / Major League Baseball / Getty

Major League Baseball fans eagerly awaiting the introduction of the automated strike zone may have to wait longer than expected.

"The short answer is, I don't know what's going to happen going forward," MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said during a panel Wednesday, according to Evan Drellich of The Athletic. "I'm trying to get through this year's change. We have some work to do, I think, on (the automated ball and strike system, also known as ABS)."

MLB is introducing a few new rules in 2023 in hopes of speeding up the game and creating more on-field action. Those changes include the introduction of a pitch clock and PitchCom, restrictions on infield shifts, larger bases, and limiting pitcher pickoff attempts.

However, while the majority of those changes have been met favorably by players, Manfred notes that there are still obstacles to introducing ABS.

"In the minor leagues, we have tested the umpire using (ABS) for every pitch in the game," Manfred noted. "Players know these things because they're players: It does cause a problem with these corner pitches ... because nobody has ever been trained to treat those as strikes or hit them."

The league is seemingly considering an appeals system, not unlike the current replay review system for close plays in the field.

"The theory of instant replay was: fix the big miss," the commissioner continued. "And we decided, well, why don't we try the same theory? We'll give pitchers, catchers, and hitters all the right to challenge a pitch, certain number per game. ... It's a very appealing way to correct a problem, or a miss, in a game where it can be a high-leverage situation."

Manfred noted that he's striving for the system to be accurate within a 10th of an inch, and while the league has seemingly achieved that level of accuracy, he also adds that further testing is needed. Manfred says the MLBPA, which would look to protect pitch-framing catchers, would have to sign off on the new system.

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