On Thursday, the Nikkan Sports reported in Japanese on a few plans discussed on May 27 to reduce the burden on players who will be entering a season without the typical seven-week buildup while facing the added burden placed by possible exposure to the novel coronavirus.
Increase the imported player limit to 5
Since 2002, Rule 82.2 of NPB’s Baseball Charter has allowed up to four imported players on the 29-man active roster, with no more than three position players or pitchers.
On Wednesday, a special rule was discussed for this season that would allow five imports on the active roster, while retaining the four-man limit for the 25-man game roster. The additional active spots are typically used for starting pitchers between starts, and are one reason, along with a current 12-inning limit, that Japan virtually never sees a position player used as an emergency pitcher.
Increase the active roster beyond 29
On Monday, when NPB executives and their pro soccer counterparts from the J-League met with infectious disease experts, one recommendation was an expansion of the active rosters beyond 29. The rationale for this is that players may be exposed to the coronavirus and giving players more frequent rest could make them less vulnerable to infection in a season that is slated to run from June 19 to the end of November.
Curfews and time limits
Other items discussed were a possible 3-1/2 hour time limit on games and no extra innings. All official games that are declared ties when called either early because of playing conditions or at the end of 12 innings.
Last season, 247 of NPB’s 858 regular season games lasted longer than 3:30, with 150 of those exceeding 3:45 and 78 going past four hours.