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Wild-card game, speed-up rules among changes for 2015 KBO season

All Headlines 09:00 March 24, 2015

SEOUL, March 24 (Yonhap) -- The times sure are a-changin' in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO), which has adopted several changes for this year ranging from the postseason structure to new scheduling.

The KT Wiz will become the 10th team of the KBO League when the 34th pro baseball season starts Saturday. The number of games each team plays will go up from 128 last year to 144 this year.

The KBO also tweaked its postseason play with the addition of the expansion team. Previously, the top four-ranked regular season teams entered the postseason. Starting in 2015, the fourth- and the fifth-place clubs will meet in the new wild-card game. The winner of that showdown will move on to the playoffs to take on the No. 3 seed in the opening round.

In the wild-card game, the fourth-ranked team will have the home field and have a one-win advantage and can reach the next stage with either a win or a tie.

The fifth-ranked team must win twice to advance to the playoffs.

To compensate for a potential dilution of talent after its second expansion in three seasons, the KBO has expanded the active roster from 26 to 27. Of those, 25 may play in games.

The Wiz will have a 28-man roster, of which 26 can take the field.

The KBO also instituted some rule changes designed to speed up the pace of play this year. The games on average took three hours and 27 minutes in 2014, longer than ever, and the KBO set out to speed up games by 10 minutes.

Among the changes, the batter must keep at least one foot in the batter's box once he steps into it. A violation will incur a fine of 200,000 won (US$180). During preseason, those who left the box were charged with an extra strike, but the league tweaked the rule amid growing concerns that the penalty unfairly favored the pitchers.

During an inning, a team must make a pitching change within two minutes and 30 seconds, down from two minutes and 45 seconds last year. When hit by a pitch, the batter must run to first base before removing protective gear.

With these rules in place, the average preseason game this year took two hours and 49 minutes, 12 minutes faster than in 2014.

The KBO also announced that it will select 10 total Sunday games in April, May and September as marquee matchups and schedule them in the late afternoon.

While the other Sunday games will start at 2 p.m., the featured games will begin at 5 p.m. The KBO is hoping the new scheduling will keep the fans glued to their TV sets the entire day.

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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