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 NEW YORK (AP) -With games seeming to run longer each year, Major League Baseball on Wednesday asked teams to help enforce speed-up rules already on the books.
A nine-inning game is averaging 2 hours, 51 minutes, 42 seconds this season, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. That's only 29 seconds longer than last season, but 5 1/2 minutes longer than five years ago.
In 1981, an average game took 2:33.
To help solve what is increasingly seen as a problem, baseball held a series of conference calls with each club's manager, general manager and in-game entertainment staff. All umpire crew chiefs were also involved.
Among the suggestions:
-Umpires should urge batters to approach home plate from the on-deck circle and enter the batter's box faster, and to enforce rules such as issuing an automatic strike to batters who linger outside the box.
-In bases-empty situations, pitchers should be warned if they don't pitch within a 12-second time limit. Pitchers will be called for a ball for each subsequent violation.
In addition to those existing rules, conferences on the pitcher's mound will be broken up more quickly, and teams will be asked to have a reserve player or coach ready to catch warmup pitches if a catcher isn't ready.
Teams will also be fined for repeated violations of league rules for in-game entertainment, public address announcements and music and video presentations, such as running too long.
``Improving pace of game is an important goal that will be emphasized,'' commissioner Bud Selig said. ``Clubs and fans share the common objective of seeing a game that is played as sharply and crisply as possible. We have reminded our staff and our umpires to enforce the rules in order to achieve the progress we need in this area.''

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