There seems to be a longstanding belief that, if a pitcher has warmed up and/or begun to pitch, but then there is a long rain delay, that he should be replaced after the delay instead of continuing to pitch. The concern is that pitching after he has "cooled off" may be ineffective or risk injury. (A related question, unanswered so far: What has historically been the effect of a long rain delay on a pitcher's arm?)

How does this interact with the new three-batter minimum rule? If a pitcher enters the game and there is a rain delay before he has pitched to three batters, is he still required to continue pitching after the delay?

One could ask the same question about suspended games that are resumed on a later day.

The three-batter minimum rule (5.10g) does not appear to contain any exception for delays in the game, but maybe there is something I've missed. I could also imagine an unwritten rule that the umpire would waive the three-batter minimum, or that a cooled-off arm could count as an "injury or illness which incapacitates him from pitching".

This almost(?) happened in the Giants-Reds game that was on July 17, 2023. The Reds manager went to the mound to make a pitching change, and just then, the umpires called for the tarp. On the other hand, I think the umpires may have called the delay before the name of the new pitcher was announced. If so, presumably when the delay ends, the Reds can insert any available pitcher - not necessarily the one who was warmed up before the delay. I wonder if the umpires did this deliberately as a way to avoid the issue?

  • What ended up happening in the Giants-Reds game: the rain didn't stop and the game was suspended until the following day. When it resumed, the Reds did bring in the pitcher who had been warming up when the delay occurred, but the announcers emphasized that they weren't obliged to do so. Commented Jul 19, 2023 at 13:00

1 Answer 1


There is no specific language regarding rain delays in the rules (in fact, there is remarkably little in total; 4.03 and 4.04 has little to say beyond denoting who has the authority to start or pause a game). However, rain delays have similarities to two things: inning changes, and suspended games.

In the MLB Rules, 7.02(c), they have the following comment:

Rule 7.02(c) Comment: If immediately prior to the call of a suspended game, a pitcher has not pitched to a minimum of three consecutive batters in accordance with Rule 5.10(g), such pitcher, when the suspended game is later resumed may, but is not required to start the resumed portion of the game. However, if he does start the resumed portion of the game, he shall have to complete pitching to his first three consecutive batters in accordance with Rule 5.10(g); and, if he does not start upon resumption of the game, he will be considered as having been substituted for and may not be used again in that game.

As such, it is treated identically to the situation as a new inning (where the pitcher may be changed at the change of the inning, but if he does not, he must pitch to the completion of three total batters, as is in 5.10(g). I would suggest that it is likely that rain delays would follow a similar pattern, without any rules to the contrary.

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