Play­ers must OK hik­ing strike zone top of knees

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - NOAH TRIS­TER

Com­mis­sioner Rob Man­fred says he can’t of­fer a pre­dic­tion on how likely it is that base­ball will be al­ter­ing the strike zone this sea­son.

Man­fred dis­cussed that and other po­ten­tial rule changes Thurs­day at the Detroit Tigers’ spring train­ing com­plex, which was host­ing a Grape­fruit League me­dia day. Man­fred says there are on­go­ing dis­cus­sions with the Ma­jor League Base­ball Play­ers As­so­ci­a­tion, and it’s not clear what changes might be made for 2017.

“You’d think given my ca­reer path that I would be a lit­tle bet­ter at pre­dict­ing the out­come of ne­go­ti­a­tions with the MLBPA than I am. I just don’t know at this point,” Man­fred said. “It’s been a long win­ter for both sides on labour, and fa­tigue can ac­tu­ally play a role in how many agree­ments you can reach. But at this point I just don’t feel com­fort­able mak­ing a pre­dic­tion.”

MLB has stud­ied whether to lift the lower edge of the strike zone from just be­neath the kneecap to the top of the kneecap. Any change for 2017 would re­quire an agree­ment with the play­ers’ as­so­ci­a­tion.

Man­fred has pushed for faster games since he be­came com­mis­sioner two years ago, al­though he said rais­ing the bot­tom of the strike zone isn’t re­ally a pace-of-play is­sue.

“We’re not sug­gest­ing that we change the strike zone to shorten the game. We’re sug­gest­ing that we change the strike zone to get more ac­tion in the game,” Man­fred said. “The the­ory is that the pitch be­low the knee is be­ing called a strike more fre­quently, that that par­tic­u­lar pitch is hard to hit, and that forc­ing pitch­ers up in the zone would pro­duce more ac­tion.”

When it comes to the pace of play, Man­fred sought to clar­ify that it’s not the over­all length of a game that’s the is­sue.

“Pace of game is dif­fer­ent than time of game. Pace re­lates to dead time caused by bat­ters step­ping out, pitch­ers not work­ing quickly, trips to the mound,” he said. “We’ve never set a goal in terms of time of game. What we want is a well­paced game, with ac­tion, re­gard­less of the ac­tual time of the game.”

He men­tioned the pos­si­bil­ity of stream­lin­ing in­ten­tional walks and the re­play process.

“Dead-time changes, there’s prob­a­bly not one that you can men­tion that I wouldn’t be in favour of,” he said. “I see the in­ten­tional walk in that cat­e­gory. I know it’s a small thing.”

LYNNE SLADKY, THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Rob Man­fred says he can’t of­fer a pre­dic­tion on how likely it is that base­ball will be al­ter­ing the strike zone this sea­son.

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