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Negotiations are underway between Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association over possible rule changes. Commissioner Rob Manfred said that the league is focused on pace-of-play and other rule changes such as expanding the designated hitter rule to the National League are too broad to be instituted this year.

The Associated Press reports Manfred spoke with reporters at the end of the Owners Meetings in Orlando, Florida. Manfred acknowledged the union's proposal to the league about a potential pitch clock and three-batter minimum for relief pitchers within an inning. However, he acknowledged that certain issues that have larger ramifications will take longer to deal with. He believes there's not much time before the season starts to reach an agreement over the designated hitter.

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Major League Baseball working with players on possible rule changes

Major League Baseball has entered its third year of a five-year labor deal. MLB has seen a free-agent market slow down in comparison to previous years, even with players like Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. The broader changes would be part of a new deal for a new collective bargaining agreement extending beyond December 2021.

Richmond.com says Manfred is encouraged by the players' association response to the league's proposal for a 20-second pitch clock and the suggested three-batter minimum for a relief pitcher. Manfred said other proposed rule changes will continue to be discussed after opening day. Rob Manfred wants to focus on the issues needing to be resolved immediately.

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Players previously rejected pitch clock proposal

The pitch clock was originally proposed last season, but ended up being shot down by the players. However, he does have the right to institute the clock without the players' approval. Manfred has yet to make any on-field changes without the players' agreement. Manfred told the reporters that constant pitching changes take a lot of time, and the ideas of relievers having to stay on the mound longer help promote the starting pitcher, leading to starting pitchers staying in longer.

Manfred has for now passed on a DH in all games, an earlier trade deadline, and penalizing teams in the draft based on their records. The league says they are looking at economic issues, rather than playing-rule changes which focus on the pace-of-play.

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The commissioner also addressed the three straight years of declining attendance. Manfred said it's too early to speculate about the upcoming season attendance. He's hoping they see a rebound but it's impossible to predict it right now.