New Hampshire Fiser Cats’ Richard Urena safely dives back to first before Sea Dogs’ first baseman Henry Urrutia can put the tag on him during a game in Portland in July. (Sun Journal file photo)

Fans at Portland’s Hadlock Field will see a significant change in 2018: Runners at second base to start extra innings.

The change was announced Wednesday as Minor League Baseball tries to speed up the length of games.

Among other changes coming to minor league ballparks are limited visits to the pitcher’s mound and a 15-second pitch clock when no runners are on base.

The biggest change, which actually alters the rules of the game, is the extra-inning rule. Each extra inning will begin with a runner on second base — with the obvious hope of giving teams a better chance of scoring.

In the minor leagues, with developing pitchers on pitch counts and inning limitations, extra-inning games can tax a team’s roster. Longer games often use a position player on the mound to save the pitching staff.

“Player safety has been an area of growing concern for our partners at the Major League Baseball level,” said Minor League Baseball president Pat O’Conner in a news release. “The impact that lengthy extra innings games has on pitchers, position players and an entire organization was something that needed to be addressed.”

The mound-visit limitation follows the lead of Major League Baseball, which is imposing a six-visit limit (by player or coach) this year. Double-A clubs such as the Portland Sea Dogs will be allowed eight mound visits per game by coaches or position players.

Pitch clocks were first put in use in minor league games three years ago, with pitchers having 20 seconds to come to a set position. In the Triple-A and Double-A games, the time is being adjusted to 15 seconds when no runners are base (and 20 seconds with runners on base).

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