New WBC rules reduce pitch counts

A perpetual concern associated with the World Baseball Classic — the workload on pitchers — has been addressed in the rules for this year’s tournament.

Pitchers will be limited to 65 pitches per game in the first round, 80 in the second round and 95 in the semifinals and finals, according to a source with knowledge of the changes. For the most recent tournament, in 2009, the caps were set at 70, 85 and 100 pitches, respectively.

Still, it’s not clear how many of the top American pitchers will participate. The United States roster will be announced Thursday, and stars Justin Verlander, Clayton Kershaw and Cole Hamels have yet to declare whether they intend to play. David Price and Matt Cain already have decided they won’t participate.

Among the other changes instituted for the tournament, which begins in March:

• Pitchers may not appear in more than one game on the same day.

• Smokeless tobacco use is not permitted.

• Mobile phones may be used for communication between the dugouts and bullpens, as will be the case for Major League Baseball games in 2013 through a partnership with T-Mobile.

• Pool play will return to the round-robin format used in 2006. (The United States will play in Phoenix against Mexico, Italy and Canada.)

• The WBC has adopted the same concussion protocol used in MLB: The game will be halted if a player has concussion-like symptoms, and the player will be evaluated immediately by a certified athletic trainer.

• The paternity leave list may be used, for a minimum of one day and maximum of three.

• Batting orders must be announced to the media at least 90 minutes before the first pitch.

• The championship game will be played to completion. (Mercy rules exist for other games in the tournament.)

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