ST. LOUIS (KMOX/AP) – Major League Baseball and its players union have agreed to implement a new rule this year to end four-pitch intentional walk, and instead will immediately grant the batter first base, reports ESPN’s Howard Bryant.

A signal will come from the dugout and the home plate umpire will then direct the batter to first base, doing away with the extra minute of game time spent watching a pitcher lob four pitches away from the plate. This rule change was seen as the least controversial of proposed alterations, compared to possible changes involving the strike zone, installation of pitch clocks and limits on trips to the pitcher’s mound.

On average, there was an intentional walk one time every 2.6 games in 2016.

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred did not confirm the report by ESPN at a press conference Tuesday. But is continuing to push the MLBPA and its head, Tony Clark, to accept ways to speed up the pace-of-play.

“I believe it’s a mistake to stick our head in the sand and ignore the fact that our game has changed and continues to change,” Manfred says. “I’m committed to the idea that we have a set of proposals out there and we continue to discuss those proposals in private.”

“As part of a broader discussion with other moving pieces, the answer is yes,” Clark wrote Wednesday in an email to The Associated Press. “There are details, as part of that discussion, that are still being worked through, however.”

One rule change that already has planned testing in lower minor league levels, is starting runners on second base in extra innings. The change will also be experimented with during the World Baseball Classic, Manfred said it was a special-purpose rule “beneficial in developmental leagues.”

(TM and Copyright 2017 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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