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Minor League Baseball To Experiment With Robotic Umpires

Umpires will have a little help behind home plate in some minor league games this season – from a “robot ump.”

Major League Baseball announced Thursday that select games in the Low-A Southeast will use a robot to help call balls and strikes. The use of the technology, called the Automatic Ball-Strike System, will also “ensure a consistent strike zone is called, and determine the optimal strike zone for the system,” according to MLB.

The robot’s use is one of a number of experimental rules announced Thursday, which the league said are “designed to increase action on the basepaths, create more balls in play, improve the pace and length of games, and reduce player injuries.”

MLB has often tried out rules in the minor leagues it is considering for the majors. The league has implemented a number of rule changes at its highest level in recent years to try to reduce dead time, shorten games and — it’s presumed — make them more exciting for fans.

“The game on the field is constantly evolving, and MLB must be thoughtful and intentional about progressing toward the very best version of baseball – a version that is true to its essence and has enough consistent action and athleticism on display to entertain fans of all ages,” Theo Epstein, consultant to MLB, said in a statement.