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ABS system will debut in the Minors on April 25

There’s been a lot of chatter at the Major League level about how the pitch clock has impacted play this season.

But for Minor League players, it’s nothing new.

The experiment with the pitch clock started at the Double-A and Triple-A levels in 2016, but the rule had little teeth to it. Umpires often ignored it and unless a violation was blatant, there were few calls.

Now, it is in use at Major and Minor League levels and has been given a high level of importance by Major League Baseball, so it is much more exacting.

The larger bases that have led to an increase in the number of stolen base attempts and percentages in the Majors is nothing new to the Minor Leagues either - having started there last season.

What is new this season in the minors is the auto ball/strike system (ABS), and the ABS challenge system. For Tuesday through Thursdays in the minors beginning on April 25, the ABS system will be used, with the challenge system coming into play for Friday, Saturday and Sunday games.

Why the split? No one is really sure, but it’s likely to give the folks at MLB some more time to compare both versions under similar circumstances.

The ABS system will make the calls on balls and strikes automatically. The home plate umpire is there in case something goes horribly wrong – such as when a ball bounces in the dirt and is called a strike – and to make safe and out calls at the plate. Other than that, the computers take over. In the challenge system, the umpire makes the ball and strike calls, but the catcher or hitter can challenge the call, and the computer system takes over and what it says goes.

Sometimes umpires will look good, other times they will look bad. Major league umpires have gotten used to that thanks to replay rules, but minor league umpires will get their first competition with technology beginning in several weeks.

Most players around the IronPigs clubhouse are at least keeping an open mind toward the new rules that will be tested this season.

Dustin Peterson has played in 19 major league games and is approaching 900 minor league games in his career. He sees the new rules as just something that players have to adjust to, but believes it may wind up being good for the game.

“I think it could be good. It’s not going to lie to you or hold a grudge against you for arguing a call or anything. If it’s a strike, it’s a strike and if it’s a ball, you know. I think it’s cool to have the opportunity to challenge pitches, and I think it’s going to be exciting for hitters,” said Peterson. “It will help the guys who really know the zone. It’s going to be as real as it gets.”

For the challenge system, the challenge has to come immediately and directly from the players with no input from the bench. The correct call will then be splashed on the scoreboard and that’s what the pitch is, with no argument allowed. The immediacy is something that Peterson believes is important.

“There’s no standing around like with the replay rule in the majors. You challenge it or not, but it has to be done right away,” said the 28-year-old outfielder. “Plus, this is in the player’s hands. It’s not up to the manager or coaches, it’s all on the players.”

Each team is limited to three challenges per game, but if their challenge was correct, they retain that challenge for later. If the original call was correct, the challenge is lost.


… Reliever McKinley Moore became the first IronPigs player to be promoted to Philly this season when reliever Yunior Marte struggled early and got an early ticket for Lehigh Valley. Kody Clemens followed Moore to Philly when former IronPig Darick Hall went down with a thumb injury. Clemens was already on the 40-man roster, so the Phillies did not need to clear a spot for him. As for Hall, surgery to repair a torn ligament will keep him out for six to eight weeks.


… With the weather warming nicely this week in the Lehigh Valley, the IronPigs will be on the road and unable to enjoy it. Fortunately, they are heading south to start a six-game series with the Durham Bulls (Chicago White Sox) at historic Durham Athletic Park. Hopefully, the weather here holds until the IronPigs return for their series with the Worcester Red Sox on April 25.


… By virtue of a Saturday doubleheader, the IronPigs had a rare Sunday off on Easter. Thanks to the schedule, a number of them including Scott Kingery, Simon Muzziotti, and Michael Plassmeyer were able to receive their rings at the ceremony put together by the Phillies prior to the Phillies and Reds afternoon game at Citizens Bank Park. Any player who spent even one day on the Phillies roster last season received a ring commemorating the Phillies 2022 National League Championship.

Veteran minor-leaguer Dustin Peterson thinks the ABS system could be good for the game. CHERYL PURSELL/IRON PIGS