The potentially dramatic changes could be in effect by next season.
The committee agreed on a motion to effectively raise the lower part of the strike zone to the top of the hitter's knees, sources said. The current rules stipulate that the zone begins at "the hollow beneath the kneecap," but the change is a reaction to a trend by umpires to call strikes on an increasing number of pitches below the knees.
The change in the intentional-walk rule would end the traditional practice of requiring the pitcher to lob four balls outside the strike zone. Instead, a team could signify it wants to issue an intentional walk, and the hitter would be immediately sent to first base, sources said.
The two changes can't go into effect unless they are approved by baseball's playing rules committee, which is chaired by New York Mets general manager Sandy Alderson and made up of a cross-section of baseball executives. Sources said the changes would also be presented to the MLB Players Association as part of negotiations for a new labor agreement. However, the playing rules committee isn't required to have the union sign off on the changes. So they could take effect next season whether or not the union agrees to them.
Both changes are designed to address concerns by commissioner Rob Manfred and others about pace of play and one of the commissioner's favorite terms, "pace of action." The end of the traditional intentional walk would eliminate dead time. However, the adjustment in the strike zone is designed to produce more balls in play, more baserunners and more action at a time when nearly 30 percent of hitters in the average game either walk or strike out, the highest rate of "non-action" in history.