Major League Baseball has a new round of proposed rule changes aimed at speeding up the pace of play, though this time the alterations might have to be implemented with more force.

Lowering the average time of games has been a crusade of Commissioner Rob Manfred for the past several seasons. Recent rule changes with pace of play in mind have included hitters keeping one foot in the batter’s box in most instances, in-stadium clocks requiring players to be ready by the end of commercial breaks, the doing away of pitchers having to throw four balls to initiate an intentional walk, how long a managerial challenge can last, and so on.

This new round of proposed changes is centered on a pitch clock and limiting the number of mound visits during a game. According to reports from the Associated Press and a memo obtained by Yahoo Sports, the proposed changes could include a 20-second pitch clock for pitchers to get set and a limit of six mound visits per game that don’t result in a pitching change, as well as only one mound visit per inning, regardless whether it’s from a coach, catcher or infielder. The batter would also have to be in the box with at least five seconds remaining on the pitch clock.

Multiple offenses by the same player to the pitch clock would result in either a ball being called against the pitcher or a strike being called against the batter if he is not ready in time.

As for the mound visits, a second visit in the same inning — regardless if it’s from a coach or player — would require a pitching change, as would the seventh non-change visit of the game.

The details of the proposal could be altered, but the thinking behind the initiatives is clear.

The players union rejected the most recent proposal, but MLB could unilaterally implement these changes for the 2018 season. Manfred has said he would prefer to have an agreement with the players. But MLB could still implement the changes without it after a year of negotiations.

Major League Baseball has experimented with a pitch clock in the minor leagues since 2015. To take it to the major-league level, though, would be a new wrinkle in the game.

Many are opposed to the idea — since, after all, baseball is the lone major team sport without a clock, which is part of its beauty — but it’s entirely possible that this becomes another rule change that causes an uproar at first and then blends into the game. Many other significant rule alterations, such as recent changes regarding how a player can slide into a base or home plate, have already done just that.

Having a clock affecting play might feel unnatural, but baseball has evolved before, and this could just be another case.

The questions around the pitch clock primarily revolve around how it might affect a pitcher’s thought process and timing. But it’s unclear to what extent it might affect anything.

“In the grand scheme of things, you’re tying to execute to get an out,” Indians pitcher Josh Tomlin said. “It’s tough to say you get a certain amount of time to go, ‘I have to get [Mike] Trout out and I’m thinking about what I can do here, and I have to go.’

“Instead of sitting back, thinking about it, taking deep breaths — there’s so much emphasis on those big moments — to say you have a certain amount of time on it, I don’t know if it’s right or wrong. I really don’t.

“We’ve never seen that in the game. Once it’s implemented into the game, we’ll see what happens. If it never gets that way, so be it. It’s still baseball.”

Indians starter Trevor Bauer said he’s been involved in the proposals and the discussion, but wasn’t yet in a position to offer a clear opinion one way or another.

“It’ll be what it’ll be,” Bauer said. “And when we get to spring and [we’ll be] working through trying to handle it in the best possible way so we don’t affect the game. ... We’re trying to work together with MLB and do something that’s good for all of us.”

Indians manager Terry Francona pointed out a possible hurdle with teams adjusting to a potential limit on mound visits. Especially with technology, it would hinder a pitcher’s ability to work with his catcher to change signs or to make sure they’re on the same page.

“The hardest thing for us is, with the technology in place, teams have a lot of your pitches,” Francona said. “It’s not that hard. When you have people who are smart sitting up there watching every pitch on TV, you’re going to have everybody’s signs. We don’t want them to have them, so a lot of times the catcher has to go out there and make a quick trip to the mound. That’s probably going to be the one that sets up more people than the other stuff.”

Major League Baseball seems determined to lower the average game time below the three-hour mark. Perhaps putting a clock on a pitcher is one step too far, like putting a runner on second base in extra innings. Perhaps this won’t affect much of anything at all or shave enough time off the game times to really matter.

But as Tomlin said, it’s still baseball. Players will adjust, even if this pitch clock is implemented against many players’ wishes. All sports evolve, which includes baseball trying to mold itself into something resembling a more consumer-friendly product to the average fan.

Ryan Lewis can be reached at rlewis@thebeaconjournal.com. Read the Indians blog at www.ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/RyanLewisABJ.